Sunday 26 August 2007

Memorial Training Report

On August the 15th, like so many karateka around the world, I completed 'special training' in memory of Asai Tetsuhiko. Many people have asked me what I did as one of his direct pupils, so here is a brief report and some photos. For me, the memorial trainings were a great opportunity to reflect on what Asai Sensei personally taught me. Also, to remember 'What Karate Is'! In Asai Sensei's own words, just prior to his passing in 2006, he stated. "Karate is defined by how much a man physically trains himself." I believe we should all endeavour to follow Sensei's disciplined example, and if we do not, how can we claim to be karateka? The answer is simple, we cannot! OSU, Andre.

AUGUST 15, 2007

Session One
In the tradition of Asai Sensei, I completed my first memorial training in the very early morning. This began with 20 minutes of mokuso, followed by Asai Sensei’s typical junansei-renshu. Included in this softness training were the kihoyuragiso drills, and the complete Kihoken kata (issei, nisei and sansei combined), focusing on the harmony of correct breathing, and soft movement. I then worked on Asai Sensei’s tokui-waza, muchiken (whip fist), namely snapping techniques with shuto, haito, haishu, teisho and ganken. I progressed on to keri-waza from standing, and seated positions (applying the principles of muchiken to all of the leg techniques). To conclude there was another period of meditation, in remembrance of Sensei.

Session Two
Beginning with a simple bow, the second session addressed snapping all of my kihon, utilising ‘natural energy’ by ‘training until failure’. This included Asai Sensei’s unique approach, in the training of the core foundational techniques. That is, kihon-waza with pivots, spins, reverse spins, jumping, and the diverse combinations of these. This period of my training was undoubtedly ‘the most intense’ planned for the day, but ended up being highly enlightening, revealing some unnecessary muscle power, hidden within some of my techniques (especially when fatigue set in). The formal exercise portion of the session was dedicated to Asai Sensei’s three favourite ‘Shotokan-ryu’ kata; Tekki-nidan, Enpi and Nijushiho; and his three favourite ‘Asai-ryuha’ kata; Kakuyoku (Kakuyoku-nidan), Rakuyo, and Hushu (Kaze no te). Each kata was repeated three times. To wrap up this training, I ended with a vigorous blast of the foundational techniques, no doubt ‘physically influenced’ by earlier kihon of the session (which seemingly took all of my energy); 1000 gyaku zuki (500 with each hand), and 1000 mae geri (500 each leg). Again the focus was on snapping the techniques, as opposed to using muscular power. Even though I was completely worn out, particularly from the final burst of front snap kicks, I decided to end, by pushing my spirit, with an "extra".., Sensei’s ‘machine gun’ choku zuki from kiba dachi, until total failure. Asai Sensei always reserved this, for the end of his open seminar sessions, to ‘burn out’ your muscles, so you had to punch with snap/joint power. My body shut down, after just over a minute of 'zapping out' punches, where I ended with ten single ‘perfect’ choku zuki. When I say perfect, I'm really meaning ‘the feeling of perfection’, as I could not use any of my muscle power. The session ended with a simple bow, and then a road trip, which I will briefly explain from now...

Trip to Jumonjibaru Observatory
We travelled to Kyushu’s famous onsen city Beppu, to visit the Jumonjibaru Observatory. It is here that you can see Ehime on Shikoku island, where Asai Sensei was born. The weather was fantastic, and the view was just as great. My legs during the drive were so cramped from training, that I could barely stand when we finally got to the lookout, so a relaxing onsen was certainly tempting! But of course it was impossible, as I needed to complete my final session! In saying that, the breathtaking view was worth the trip. It was highly appropriate to see Shikoku from 'our' island, on the first anniversary of Sensei's passing.

Session Three
In the final session I completed all 89 kata, in a continuous relaxed fashion, with my mind on sensei’s coaching. This was really a warm down session, and a time for me to reflect on Asai Sensei’s karate advice, and other more personal memories. Upon the completion of all of the kata, I recited the dojo-kun in seiza, and had a period of ten minutes silence, in memory of Sensei.

This concluded my memorial for Asai Sensei. It certainly brought back many wonderful memories, and some ' very intense training memories' as well. Ironically, for those of you who don’t know, the day Sensei died was 61st Anniversary, of Japan surrendering in WWII. The first anniversary of Asai Sensei's passing, therefore marked 62 years, since World War 2 ended.

© André Bertel, Japan 2007

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