Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Ueki Shihan Kyushu Seminar Report

Over the weekend I attended another seminar of Ueki Masaaki Shuseki-Shihan (Chief Instructor of the JKA). Last year was great but this year was "awesome". The training included a staggering amount of high level knowledge; and like Ueki Sensei’s seminar last year, was delivered in the utmost masterful way.

 For anyone who has attended Ueki Shihan’s classes, you will know that they always include a finely acute balance of kihon, kata and kumite—the `technical trinity of Karate-Do’; accordingly, this weekend’s seminar followed this highly methodological approach. Here is a very brief outline of what Ueki Shuseki-Shihan taught. – André.
KIHON: The kihon taught this year was focused on multiple points, which were seamlessly interrelated to essentially “…foster overall improvement (of one’s Budo Karate) by centring power, and balance, in the seika tanden”. With this generic theme the following points were practiced: (a) stance checks for extreme balance (pushing one’s partner from various angles/directions when they were executing jodan age-uke kara chudan gyaku-zuki in zenkutsu-dachi). I’d like to add here that Ueki Shihan stressed that jodan age uke must be straight on, diagonal, and the typical `one fist from the forehead’. Furthermore, that the eyes must be fixed and mimi must remain stationary—especially when moving between shomen and hanmi; (b) pelvic alignment (the best practice of this was `four rapid/continuous mae-geri’ where the hips must remain square and the spine perfectly erect (and, the same conceptualisation, with `ippo sagatte gedan-barai kara jun-zuki’). I should mention that to do this precise, at maximum speed, can be very challenging when fatigue sets; (c) generating power from the tsumasaki into the hips (the entire body must be used), which was practiced via choku-zuki. It was great to readdress this fundamental point, which can’t be stressed enough; (d) the latest JKA Sohonbu evolution of stances—namely zenkutsu-dachi (with jun-zuki), hangetsu-dachi (with chudan uchi-uke kara gyaku-zuki), fudo-dachi (with jodan age-uke kara gyaku –zuki), sanchin-dachi (with ‘mawashi-uke’ kara teisho awase-zuki); sanchin-dachi (with ryo ken ryo koshi mae kara awase zuki) and neko ashi-dachi (with yori-ashi and teisho gedan awase-uke); and (e) the new `tighter’ loading of yoko-kekomi for a larger scale action via centralisation. I’d like to add here that the focus was on natural energy, and more natural position, in the Shotokan-ryu tachikata and with unsoku (leg movements). Indeed, lots of things to work on!!!

KATA: This year a huge amount of kata were covered: these included Hangetsu and Gankaku, which were the main focus for the shinsain test, which I didn’t take; but also Jitte, Kanku-Sho, Sochin, Nijushiho, and Gojushiho Sho. I won’t go into all of the points taught, as there are far too many; however, I will mention some, which stand out from my notes. (i) The `chudan uchi-uke kara gyaku-zuki’ in Hangetsu is now all performed in shomen as opposed to rotating into hanmi—which returns it `to its Okinawan roots’—furthermore,  makes it more unique/`technically meaningful’ amongst the Shotokan-ryu kata;  (ii) also in Hangetsu kata, the rear legs thy must point shomen and width has been further narrowed (also chudan-zuki after mikazuki geri): this is not new, but I was still doing gedan-zuki. Stance-wise, it was great to get some personal advice on my Hangetsu-dachi from Ueki Shihan; (iii) for Nijushiho, the `ryo ken ryo koshi’ is now horizontal to the floor as opposed to being vertical and tsukami-uke downwards; (iv) in the case of Gojushiho-sho, the hand positions of the three shihon-nukite (the trademark renwaza/kogeki in this kata) was extensively explained and emphasised (other points stressed were “commonplace” i.e. – centring the knee when executing fumikomi and wider grasping blocks in the first kiba-dachi sequences follow sokumen gedan-uke with haito). The list goes on…

KUMITE: The focus was (1) Kihon ippon kumite (jodan to yoko-kekomi); (2) Kihon ippon kumite (with kiri-kaeshi against jodan and chudan jun-zuki); and (3) Jiyu-kumite attacks with mae-geri and yoko-kekomi depending on the opponent’s kamae. Basically, this part of the lesson was strongly linked to the aspects of pelvic alignment and balance that was taught in kihon; consequently, it concluded with partner balance checks once again. Ueki Shihan demonstrated his spectacular mae-geri multiple times, which literally cannot be blocked! It is a case of ‘if you are there, it will hit you”. All I can say is “Awesome!”… Taken as a whole, the focus, in kumite practice, remains unchanged in the JKA, ‘to make kime with all techniques’; thereby, disregarding karate that is merely to wins games. This is, of course, the technical essence of Budo Karate. Relating to this—in the sense of `progression in Karate-Do’—one thing that I have physically come to appreciate even more (in recent months and more so through this seminar) is Gohon Kumite and Kihon Ippon Kumite. Done right and they are essential training tools. This is something I will leave for now, but will certainly write about in the near future.
JKA Japan examinations: Shidoin no shinsa: The second day included JKA dan and qualification exams. I have started resitting my qualifications from the beginning, so I merely tested for `C Class’ Shidoin (instructor) and `D Class Shinpan’ (Judge). I really messed up my kata as I missed doing any warm-up and literally had to run back into the gymnasium and start immediately. I’ve had an unlucky year with kata in 2014 but, again, a good learning experience… In saying that, by the time the kumite section of the test came, I was fully warm and ready to go; consequently, this went well. I also `lucked out’ as I got paired up with my good friend and training partner, Morooka San, who has very-very powerful budo karate.

Shinpan no shinsa: The judging test, as always, was an enjoyable affair with the typical revolving ‘four checks as a flag judge’, `one check as an arbitrator’, and `one check as the shinpan-cho (head referee)’. As soon as I started judging the matches I went back into autopilot, which meant I could simply enjoy the shinpan exam. Still, I got some advice from Nakamura Akiyoshi Sensei, which really helped before I entered the tatami. The written tests for instructor and judge went well, thanks to Nakamura Masamitsu Shihan (arranging that I didn’t have to read and write kanji). The complexity of the kanji in the exams is far beyond my capacity, so reading the questions in English and responding in Romanji was imperative to have any chance of passing. I’d like to offer my thanks here to Nakamura Shihan and Yamaguchi Sensei (Kyushu Sohonbu) for allowing that: domo arigato gozaimashita.
Last but not least I had a really fun time sharing a tatami room with Nakamura Akiyoshi Sensei, and dojo mates (Katayama Senpai, Ogasawara Senpai and Morooka San). These guys are all super blokes and we had more than a few laughs: not to mention `a couple of refreshments’. Also a special thanks to Morooka San for the ride to and from Nogata. I really appreciate you all, and your wonderful friendship through Karate-Do. – André.

© André Bertel. Aso-shi, Kumamoto. Japan (2014).

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