Wednesday 20 June 2007

I'm a wazari down!

Mizuho and I have been living back here in Japan since March the 26th! It is so hard to believe that in under a week, we have been back here for three whole months! Therefore it is crunch time... Finally the blog was born yesterday (yes I know, rather dramatic commentary, but just imagine the pain!) It was 'creatively' named, Andre Bertel's Karate-DO because that sounds original to me. I am very sorry if you just spat out your coffee, or other tasty beveridge all over your expensive computer screen. I'm definitely a wazari down in regards to being so late in starting, but I've been consistenly writing into my training journal. My aim now is to transfer some of my more interesting training notes onto this site, in an attempt to 'catch up', and score that decisive ippon. This will most certainly have to start with my training under Yoshimi Abe Sensei at his Kokukan Dojo - JKF Shotokan Karate (pictured above).
2007 Training with Abe Sensei

I initially met and trained with Abe Sensei last year after literally stumbling across his dojo in lovely Oita-Shi. What a great find it was! Yoshimi Abe Sensei, unlike most instructors now in Japan, is nothing less than an expert on the subject of kata bunkai-jutsu (the technical analysis of kata), and is completely non-political. He has balanced view of the sporting aspect of karate, also being a top class JKF (Japan Karatedo Federation) shimpan/referee. His full-time dojo, the Kokukan, was left open for me in the day, so I could self-train for as long as I wanted. On three days I trained for several hours on my kata utilising the matts and mirrors. While I was self-training, Abe Sensei kindly dropped in several times to coach me (as his office is attached to the dojo). I also participated in two general classes. On this visit (early April), I could only train once, but after class I was once again given ample oyo-jutsu techniques. This time the focus was on the JKF shitei versions of 'Kankudai' and 'Enpi'. Of particular note was the take down in Kankudai, which resembles an escape and uraken tatemawashi uchi (vertical roundhouse strike with the back fist). After the typical Japanese endurance session of ido-kihon (30-50 repetitions of all the everything, including all keriwaza at chudan, gedan and jodan), followed by all of the Heian kata, Tekki-shodan, Jion, Kankudai Kankusho and Enpi, Abe sensei had me further refine my accuracy in making sure both thumbs are in the middle of the opponents back hand. He also emphasized getting 'ones back to face their opponents back' for 'leverage power'. These two points combined ensure a devasting technique, regardless of the enemies size, and strength. This kata application was repeated multiple times (and not easy as everyone was dripping with sweat and hard to grab). I will not mention the 'kata garuma' application of Enpi, but rather the JKF's latest update (minor variation) on this section for "mandatory performance". Essentially the gedan barai is now executed with the back leg thusting you forward for yori-ashi. The front foot moves in a straight line and you form hidari kokutsu-dachi. You repeat this foot work again for the double grab, but this time with the front foot moving out into migi ashi mae fudo-dachi. Well, I guess you are now saying to yourself ''So what? We do it pretty much that way already! So why change?'' My answer is that we should be flexible in our physical training, just like Asai Sensei, that is, have as many technical variations as possible, then choose what best suits us. All too many times I have sworn by a fundamental principle then years later found a 'better way'. Change for changes sake is not productive, but alternatives and 'improved models' can only help to better our karate performance, and application. We must always remember that bujutsu (martial arts) must optimize the individuals skills, combatively speaking. Arigato gozaimasu Abe Sensei for your kindness, karate wisdom and excellent tuition.
© André Bertel, Japan 2007

No comments: