Thursday, 28 November 2013

Ueki Shuseki Shihan Seminar & Dan Grading

 On Saturday the 16th of November I attended a phenomenal seminar by the chief instructor of the JKA (Japan Karate Association) Ueki Masaaki Shihan (9th Dan). Then, on Sunday (the 17th) there was a dan-shinsa; and tests for JKA shidoin (instructor), and shimpan (judge) qualifications. This event was held in Nogata-shi, Fukuoka-ken.  
Ueki Shuseki Shihan Technical Seminar (An overview): Ueki Shihan’s seminar was very `exam focused’ but, at the same time, targeted critical points of fundamental techniques strongly linking kihon, kumite, and kata. I really loved the training and learned so much! His demonstration of sections from the kata Jutte, Kanku-dai, Bassai-dai, Enpi, and others, was utterly superb; also his amazing use of deai-waza in kumite was wonderful to see first-hand. Many foreign karateka will know Ueki Shuseki-Shihan from Master Nakayama’s classic `Best Karate’ books. In one of the kumite volumes he was profiled along with his tokui-waza; in volume eight he demonstrates Gankaku kata; and in volume 11 he demonstrates Gojushiho-sho kata. When he demonstrated sections of Gojushiho-sho, everyone was in awe: it really was poetry in motion.
Kihon: 1. Ayumibashi (speedily forward then rearward alternately in zenkutsu-dachi). Emphasis was on maintaining perfect shomen, and an erect spine, irrespective of the speed of the two steps; 2. Repeat on the opposite side; 3. As previous, but stepping back with gedan-barai then advancing with jun-zuki; 4. Repeat on the opposite side; 5. Exactly the same again but stepping back with jiyu-kamae then jun-zuki; and  6. Repeat on the opposite side.
Kumite no kihon (Uchikomi): 1/2. Attacking with chudan gyaku-zuki (right then left side); 3/4. Attacking with jodan kizami-zuki (left then right side); 5/6. Against kizami-zuki step back diagonally with jodan age-uke and counter with gyaku-zuki (left side then right side); 7/8 Against chudan gyaku-zuki move diagonally with gedan-barai and counter with chudan gyaku-zuki (left side then right side); 9/10. Deai-waza: Against chudan gyaku-zuki advance diagonally with gyaku gedan-barai and attack with jodan kizami-zuki (left side then right side). Note – it was emphasised that jodan age-uke must have the blocking wrist in line with the middle of the forehead (as opposed to aligning the blocking elbow with the side of the body).
Jiyu-Kumite: We then put into practice our tai sabaki by engaging in two rounds of jiyu-kumite with random partners.

Kata: During the training Ueki Shihan had us perform Bassai-dai, Kanku-dai and Jion over and over, giving technical points, and emphasising the correct counts, which should correspond with the waza no kankyu (rhythm of the techniques). I.e. – making long counts for slow movements and rapid counts for speedy movements; nevertheless, not making the rhythm of the kata too fast (or too `drawn out' as often seen now in sports karate). After numerous executions of the above three sentei-gata, we then had us perform our tokui-gata for the respective exams we were taking the next day. I worked on Nijushiho with a small group of four or five. Others groups and individuals around the room were practicing Bassai-dai, Jion, Kanku-dai, Hangetsu, and Gojushiho-sho. Ultimately, this was concluded by each individual (or group) going out in front of everyone and performing their respective kata, followed by personal tips from Ueki Shihan. What was perhaps more amazing was that Ueki Shihan gave every examinee tips. His generosity in helping everyone grading was really outstanding. I really benefitted from his corrections.
Conclusion of the Technical Seminar: To conclude the seminar, an explanation was given, followed by the aforementioned demonstration, which was invaluable and awe-inspiring. On the whole, it was clearly shown how JKA kihon, kata and kumite are truly one, and inseparable. This was a great wind down of the three hour seminar—and supportive/methodological “lead-in” to the exams.
It goes without saying that Sunday was completely dedicated to testing. Two courts, tatami areas, were used: the left side was for those taking yondan and godan; and the right side was for those taking licences. JKA karateka from all over Kyushu had come to attend the seminar under Ueki Shuseki-Shihan, and grading, so it was clear that it was going to be a long day.
The JKA Godan examination, which I attempted, involved: (1) Idomokuhyo with both migi and hidari chudan gyaku-zuki, which I only had to perform around five times with each hand; (2) Jiyu-gata.., as already mentioned, I used Nijushiho—a first for me—in a dan exam; (3) `Question and Answer’ session. In my case, this involved explaining the bunkai/oyo (analysis/application) of movements 18-20 from Nijushiho; (4) A shitei-gata randomly called by the examination panel (any Heian or Tekki Shodan). In my case I was asked to perform Heian Yondan; and finally (5) I had to engage in two rounds of continuous jiyu-kumite against other Godan examinees.
To conclude: I’d like to express my deep appreciation of Nakamura Shihan and Nakamura Sensei for their fantastic training sessions, which have helped me, and continue to help me, immensely; Naka Tatsuya Shihan for his “massive support”—which is too much to detail here---thank you so very much Naka Shihan; and the members of Japan Karate Association Kumamoto and Kyushu; in particular, my excellent  training partner, Morooka San (JKA 4th Dan). I am very thankful to all of these people and the Kyokai. Domo arigato gozaimashita, André.

© André Bertel. Aso-shi, Kumamoto, Japan (2013).

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