Saturday, 21 November 2009

Gyaku zuki

I'm sorry if this post bores most of you to tears, however I thought I'd answer a question in regards to "the 'standard training' of stationary gyaku-zuki" here in Nippon. Obviously I haven't trained everywhere, however, throughout my teens, 20's, and now 30's studying karate in Japan, I've found the following to be typical.
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The basic routine

Please note that the repetitions I've listed below are 'pretty standard', however, it is not uncommon to do many more punches, literally hundreds. Also, tate shuto is often replaced by jodan kizami zuki. To keep things comprehensive, I have not added the many variations, such as tai no shinshuku from jiyu-dachi or Asai Sensei's many stationary routines (involving various pivots, turns, jumps) etc.
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1. Migi chudan gyaku zuki followed by hidari tate shuto no kamae to a count of ten (a total of five chudan gyaku zuki). This is the warm up set, so everything is done slowly.

2. Same as previous, but with snap on the punches. Still slowly assume each tate shuto no kamae but in your own time (for a total of ten punches). Kiai on the final gyaku zuki.

3. Next, snap the gyaku zuki and tateshuto in one count (for a total of ten punches). Kiai on the final gyaku zuki.

4. Same as previous but kiai on every chudan gyaku zuki (for a total of ten punches).

Including the warm up, by now you will have executed 35 migi chudan gyaku zuki. For sets 5-8 repeat on the opposite side (with hidari gyaku zuki).

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Boring?
If this kihon training seems boring, your not doing it correctly! Anything technically incorrect, even slightly off, means that no matter how hard you train, you will be grooving bad technique. And obviously, the more you do such techniques, the harder it will be to change... This is why having an excellent instructor is crucial! If you've been taught properly, you'll literally have no time to get bored, especially when under the supervision of your sensei, but also when you are practicing in isolation. "Self-monitoring is consuming job, if being OK is desired, let alone attaining excellence."
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I hope that answers the question fully! If you follow this by training mae geri (practiced in the same manner), you'll be doing the 'typical start' of a Shotokan class here in Japan.

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© André Bertel, Japan (2009).

Monday, 16 November 2009

Adapt according to your needs

Here's my current training schedule. Last week I noticed 'technical stagnation' (which naturally happens every so often), so I adopted a different routine. Already I'm back on track. Here's a very simple tip. "If your stagnated, change ASAP!"
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Kihon: (1) Sanbon zuki or okiku tobi konde sanbon zuki; (2) Jodan age uke kara mae geri soshite chudan gyaku zuki; (3) Chudan soto uke kara yori ashi yoko empi uchi (kiba dachi), uraken yokomawashi uchi soshite chudan gyaku zuki; (4) Chudan shuto uke kara (kokutsu dachi) mae ashi mae geri soshite nukite; (5) Gedan barai kara chudan uchi uke (neko ashi dachi), jodan ura zuki soshite yori ashi chudan gyaku zuki; (6) Chudan mae geri kara jodan mawashi geri soshite chudan gyaku zuki; (7) Ushiro geri kara chudan gyaku zuki; (8) Kaiten shinagara uraken uchi kara chudan gyaku zuki; (9) Yoko keage kara yoko kekomi; (10) Jodan soto uke kara yoko yori ashi gedan barai, chudan mae ashi mae geri soshite chudan gyaku zuki. * Strength work: Tobi-waza.
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Kata: (a) Unsu; (b) Empi; (c) Free-choice (presently from Heian-Shodan, Jion, Gojushiho-Dai, Junro, Kibaken and Joko).
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Jiyu kumite: 100% emphasis on kogeki no renzokuwaza (continuous attacking techniques) as opposed to defensive tactics. No hangeki... Just attack!
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I wish you the very best in your karate-do training. Train hard and remember to adapt according to your present needs!
© André Bertel, Japan (2009).

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Keizoku wa chikara nari

Keizoku wa chikara nari is a Japanese proverb meaning "Continuance is strength". Often when I see physically talented people, I think to myself... "If this person did karate, or if they simply practiced more seriously, I can't imagine how technically excellent they'd be!"
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Regardless of one's potential, it is wasted unless it is constructively put to use... Therefore, if people don't start, or they don't continue training/practicing, their potential will mean very little, if anything. From my experience as an instructor, many high potential students learn very fast, but quickly loose interest, or simply rely on their natural ability. Whereas, the slow progressing students, who are not naturals, often 'really look into their techniques'. My advice to all practicing karateka is to not get concerned with those around you. Don't make comparisons between yourself and your karate colleagues, but rather focus on seeking 'perfect technique'. Study karate at your own pace, take your time, and make the most of yourself by being self-analytic. Whether naturally gifted or not, with continuance, you will keep improving! Over the years, many people will drop off the karate radar, but if you have "Keizoku wa chikara nari" in your heart, you will persevere. This perseverance is the inner strength gained from continuance, something that natural ability alone cannot give you. This is why, so very often, the average students end up technically surpassing those who are naturally gifted.
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Regardless of being a natural or not, the biggest point in karate training (besides accessing good tuition), is continuance. Why? Because 'continuance' requires real mental strength, and this power will result in ongoing physical improvement.
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© André Bertel, Japan (2009).

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Kagoshima

Mizuho and I recently visited Kagoshima on the way to meet up with my cousin Julian, who lives at the very bottom of Miyazaki Prefecture. It was definitely the 'longest drive' we've made within Japan, even though we never left Kyushu! Needless to say, it was worth every minute to catch up with him.
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Sighting seeing:
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Besides looking around in beautiful Kagoshima-shi, one of the standout points was visiting the Chiran Peace Museum for Kamikaze Pilots. Chiran was main kamikaze base in Japan during the Second World War.

Another highlight was seeing Sakurajima, Japan's most active composite volcano (stratovolcano). We also enjoyed visiting many gorgeous beaches driving up Miyazaki on the way home, after having a great time with Julian in Kushima. _____________
All the very best from Oita, Japan. - André

© André Bertel, Japan (2009).

Monday, 9 November 2009

Karate-Do Kata: Depth & Substance

My teachers instructor, Nakayama Masatoshi Sensei lavishly described Unsu kata in the following way (in ‘Best Karate Volume 10’). “In Unsu there are constant transformations, signified by the name meaning “Cloud Hands.” All parts of the body are used as weapons, with feints and provocations leading to unique combination techniques and multi directional kicks.”
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This and last weeks training has largely been dedicated to Unsu kata, and primarily the rendition of Unsu that Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei taught , which differs significantly from the version now seen in competitions. Like the other standard Shotokan karate-do kata, Asai Sensei had a different take on it. However, I think this is typical amongst the masters of karate-do, based on their application preferences, and unique physical attributes. With little analysis it is easy to establish, that even though ‘standard' technical form must be adhered to, we must still develop our ‘own karate’. Little do some people know, as many kata as Asai Sensei introduced and engineered, he was actually 'kumite focused'. To him, the kata he passed on were for this purpose, martial arts-fighting technique.
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It is therefore not hard to understand why Asai Sensei didn’t like posing in kata, such as the overly long pauses now commonly seen. Nor did he like ‘technique changes’ in the 26 kata as established by the JKA (Japan Karate Association). He believed that by working inside of the highly refined Kyokai framework, that one would gain the most benefits. For example, such things as doing thrust kicks instead of snap kicks in Gankaku, jumping high after the mikazuki geri in Kanku Sho, over exaggerated breathing and robotic movements infuriated him. He would say such things as “People must work with the kata, not change it to work in with themselves or come across as being athletic”. He wasn’t saying, “don’t make the kata your own” but rather “use the kata as a tool to improve yourself... Don't change the exterior, change the interior!"
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Whilst I’ve practiced Unsu for many years, I certainly do not claim to be good at it, nor any other kata in the ‘performance sense’. My goal is, and has always been, to continue seeking to improve my skills, via kata and all the other forms of training, keeping foremost in mind that kihon is kata, and kata is kumite. Asai Sensei's perspective was if each technique in kata, is kumite focused, it may not win competitions, but who cares? Its depth and substance will far exceed the most intricate/flashy ‘performances’. Therefore, "if kata is kumite, it is truly beautiful”, and will be appreciated by those who understand true karate.

© André Bertel, Japan (2009).