|Demonstrating Unsu kata in front of my instructor, Nakamura Masamitsu Shihan.|
Thursday, 1 May 2014
A return to Unsu Kata
I have finally decided to exchange Nijushiho kata with Unsu (雲手) in my free-kata practice. While the time concentrating on Nijushiho was certainly productive, I found that I couldn’t maximise my karate-do with it. As I’ve said, over and over again, I find Nijushiho to be an extreme challenge for my body-type, and personal attributes. Again, as stated earlier, this is why I took it on (in addition to its highly effective oyo/applications).
So why a change back to Unsu? I suddenly felt the need to `athletically push myself’ a little more. Also, an amalgamation of coaching tips from Nakamura Shihan helped me to reconsider Unsu; in particular, his points on HOKOTENKAN (changes of direction). Another motivation, like Nijushiho, are the combative applications in this kata. They really suit me well due to my small frame. I weigh a mere 73kg (160lbs) and am only 174cm tall.
Lots of work: In a sense, returning to Unsu has put me back to square one… However, the essence of it all, as always, is kihon (the foundational techniques of karate-do).
Imbalanced focus on the jump—an introspective into `budo karate kihon’: One thing I always laugh at is how a lot of people single-mindedly focus on the jump in Unsu. Yes, it is important, but a good Unsu—like all other “well executed kata”—has excellent kihon. Give an Olympic gymnast the Unsu jump and they will have a sky high one, with perfect form, after one fleeting glance. Ironically, they won’t be able to do movement 47 and 48 (jodan age-uke kara chudan gyaku-zuki) so easily… Yes, they will need years (even though we as karateka learn these as white belts). Once again, this brings back the point the point of ‘budo verses sports’ or ‘mere aesthetics verses practical application’. Karate-do is not physically about `doing moves’, it is about being able to turn the body into an effective weapon of self-defence: this takes intensive training.
Taken as a whole, the shift back to Unsu has really refreshed my karate-do training. I look forward to testing it out, under the pressure of competition, in late May (at the JKA Kyushu Senior Championship). While that is far too soon—to get my Unsu to the level I want it to be at—it will hopefully help in this process.
© André Bertel. Aso-shi, Kumamoto, Japan (2014).