Well, well, well, like fine Vintage Armagnac coursing through the veins, a session with Ibusuki Sensei just makes you feel great. Today's session, the first session Ibusuki Sensei has taught since January, had quite a bit of background as we heard some stories from him about several things that might surprise many of today's Shotokan practioners, particularly those that have been brought up on a narrow diet of Karate.
Today's practice consisted of Ibusuki Sensei's version of Kihon, which brings us back to moves and combinations of techniques practiced pre-Nakayama Sensei/JKA, together with his own Kihon, and work on Kanku-Sho and Hangetsu.
"Today we'll do Hangetsu, because it is the last of the Kata; next time, we'll start from the beginning with Heian Shodan" said Ibusuki Sensei.
Before I go on to explaining the training a bit, I'd like to open with some of Ibusuki Sensei's philosophy and understanding of Karate, as related to us this morning.
Orthodoxy and Stupidity: Seiza is Punishment, Not Art
So Ibusuki Sensei believes Karate can evolve, but he is only interested in what works. The first point is that today he believes a lot of energy is misplaced. One example is adherence to traditions that are plain silly. For example Ifrah Sempai told us a story about how he knows a 92-year old woman who has won tremendous respect for her commitment to 修行 shugyo, aesthetic training. The lady in question was a devoted 茶道 sado (Tea Ceremony) specialist who would spend up to 7 hours a day in 正座, seiza, dragging herself along on her knuckles, perfecting and refining her movements. The result was that she developed huge 拳蛸 kendako that would make a Karateka proud.
Now I guess the vast majority of Karateka, and Karate-otaku reading this respect the Japanese concept of 道 do. And, well let's face it, a lot of us enjoy the masochistic elements of this, the idea of self-discipline, purification, idea of getting stronger, etc. etc. (As YS says, most people who belong to the KWF are 奇人変人, kijinhenjin, weirdos and cranks, in fact he regards it as a badge of honor!) So a lot of people might respect the idea of of our lovely old Japanese lady punishing herself for her art. How splendid, right?
"Nonsense" said Ibusuki Sensei. "Many Japanese people forget their own history. Seiza was originally a punishment forced on criminals and scoundrels to torture them. Later it was appropriated into various Japanese shugyo, particularly in the Meiji Era" (no doubt to control people!) Basically too much seiza is bad for the knees, lower back, circulation and only fools would punish themselves with some sort of blind devotion to seiza. So there you go!
Commentary on Shotokan Karate by Ibusuki Sensei:
- First of all, oi-zuki is almost useless in a street fight because its so obvious. In fact most of modern Shotokan as expressed in shiai or competition is useless because it's so obvious. Most street fights are decided at short range with headbuts, hooks, kicks to the knee, gouges and spinning and circular techniques "not the ridiculous jumping around and competition Karate of today."
2. No Kumite in Original Shotokan Karate Training
He said "Funakoshi Sensei said that he didn't like Kumite fighting because it immediately distorted Karate from its original meaning." Kumite was brought in by post-war Japanese students and Funakoshi Sensei was really unhappy about this.
3. 狐拳/ 鶴頭 (koken/ kakuto) "fox fist/ crane head" and forgotten techniques
Much of the Shotokan Karate today is a grossly simplified version of Shotokan as practiced before JKA. A major example is the forgotten use of 狐拳, "fox fist" which is also known as 鶴頭 "crane head" was often used for block and counter attack in Shotokan, but somehow got edited out. This is very interesting for us as we love Asai-Ryu 鶴翼 (kakuyoku) "crane's wings" kata.
(BTW, I've noticed some hillarious stuff out there, for example "Kakioku Shodan", which brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it. Kaki in Japanese is 蠣 which means oyster, or 柿, which means persimmon. The idea of the Okinawan peasants basing their self-defense strategies against arrogant sword-head Shimazu on flying oysters intrigues me. Or perhaps they chucked fresh fruit at them? I think I need an 泡盛 ;-)
...and oku means "deep" or "inside." So perhaps this is "profoundly philosophical oysters kata."
But it's lovely to see our first, and forever wonderful Sensei Richard Amos in the Kakuyoku Shodan video. Pity about the title though. And "Bonkai." What on earth is that?)
If you are angry, I am, in fact, half-joking.
4. A Block is an Attack
While blocks have become systematized and formalized, in original Karate the block was always designed to contain an attack.
I realize that many of these points will be known to more experienced Karateka and might be new to others, but I just wanted to get these main points in.
1. Maegeri, three-count and then two-count
- Main point: protect Crown Jewels at each point in kick, never open up knee. How many times have I forgotten this? Donkey!
2. Maegeri, yokogeri, ushirogeri, one-count
- Main point: any kick above chudan in a streetfight verges from risky to nonsense, attacking the knee and shin "discourage" opponents
3. Zenshin chudan hiji-uchi
Main point: smash into your opponent, it doesn't matter about looking good as long as you keep your balance low, then you can follow up with something very dirty
4. Zenshin chudan hiji-uchi kara ballistic jodan hiji-uchi
Main point: smash face, throat after winding or smacking ribs, through your whole body and centrifugal force into it. Basically take your enemy's head off!
5. Kibadachi kara uchimawari uraken
Main point- generate huge centrifugal force and whip out. A thug won't know what you are up to if you master this so spin and smash.
6, Kibadachi kara uchimawari uraken, gyakumari uraken
Main point: have a really smashing time!
7. Kibadachi kara soto-uke, instant snap uppercut choku-zuki
Main point: this is an "Ibusuki original", whip the soto-uke into a vicious punch to the throat or uppercut to jaw, nose, etc.
8. Kibadachi kara uramawashi uraken, gyakumawashi uraken, juji-uke tsuki
This one gets the blood going- the main point is turn the juji-uke into a throat attack- you should smash the opponent down.
Teaching Point: Original Kanku-sho kick is from conventional Kiba-dachi and chudan and, whump! go straight down: NOT the massive amount of leaning over and the theatrical spin you see today. Sports Karateka love making a meal out of this one, but none of this existed before the JKA.
a) Breathing is deep, calm and dignified and NO NOISE breathing throughout the whole kata. First uke is inhale deeply 吸って sutte (inhale deeply) through nose and then tsuki is 吐いて haite (exhale) through mouth making NO NOISE. You can see that people who do not understand or have not been taught properly pass some sort of weird Darth Vader breathing off and on as Hangetsu. This is, in fact nonsense.
I asked specifically asked Ibusuki Sensei about "making noises" in Hangetsu and he looked confused by such a silly question. He said "Meat eaters who adopted Karate are very strong." And in his eyes was laughter. Bit of an evil glint, actually.
You can purse your lips a little, but a competent Karate instructor will be able to see that you are breathing correctly without you doing some sort of Darth Vader impression.
b) The final hiite (ryote hikite) is done exceptionally slowly and always keep your neko-ashi dachi as low as you can.
OK that's if for today folks. We are holding a dinner party tonight and yours truly is the chief cock. (Cock in Japanese means cook! None of your sarcastic comments please.) Meanwhile Yuko is across from me practicing Kanku-sho. She was deeply irritated by discovering some people think they are practicing kakioku shodan- "what are they, idiots?"
Well, Yuko, you tell me. I can't do Heian Shodan properly yet. Because as I am finding out, Shodan is only the beginning. ;-)