Junro Shodan’s well known theme is ‘push and pull’. However, this is not merely forward and backward, but also using gravity to drop and ground power. Furthermore, this kata master’s different forms of tsuki: the counterpunch and the attacking tsuki. Namely, this is to do with timing, which even here in Japan is mostly practiced incorrectly.
Taken as a whole, this is about using hand speed and fully utilizing the weight in your tsukiwaza; that is, the combination of relaxation for snap and the transfer of weight into the target to achieve maximum impact. In the contact of defense, Junro Shodan is all about the fundamental fluctuation of distance via the active use of tachikata. Junro Shodan elucidates that stances are not positions in themselves but, rather, as Asai Sensei said “…exaggerated positions found within dynamic and freestyle motion”.
Immediately when thinking of Junro Nidan one will think of two hand attacks and simultaneous ukewaza with tsukiwaza. While this is correct it does not highlight the importance of mastering these techniques, which is fully utilizing the backbone and pelvis. There are actions in this kata which are quite subtle but must be done precisely if its core theme and purpose is to be achieved through practice.
One important point is the use of ground power and ‘sinking’ ones weight in addition to moving the center. In all cases to maximize the use of the hips and backbone one must fully utilize the drive of the rear leg via proper tai no shinshuku. With these points in mind and practiced correctly, Junro Nidan will be of great benefit to ones karate as it will improve one shomen/zenmi in relation to technical delivery.
Junro Sandan was designed by Sensei to have karateka practice more striking techniques which, due to their illegality in competitions (in the case of most of them), tend to be the least practiced in kihon. Nonetheless, there is more to Sandan than this. Asai Sensei was concerned about the trajectory of strikes which in the last few decades have changed, not for efficiency but for aesthetics. Accordingly, the purpose of Junro Sandan is to use wide arcing strikes which ‘go through’ the respective target.
Another aspect that Junro Sandan works on is using different strikes for different distances. This mixture of long-range and close-range attacks is a feature throughout this kata and strongly encourages one to coordinate kata practice with time on the makiwara, sand bag and so forth.
You will know that the theme of Junro Yondan is to perfect fundamental hip rotation; nevertheless, this broad statement is rather obscure. Firstly, one must know what hip rotation is. In Japanese, the hip or hips are not what we often call ‘hips’ in English. The term ‘hips’ in English usually relates to the hip joints, which are located on both sides essentially linking your legs and torso; whereas, in Japanese it means your backside. That’s right, your butt! Needless to say, by rotating by using the backside, and therefore being centralized and functioning as a unit, one can generate far more speed and power. What’s more, then we can secondarily focus on the hip joints, which become the frontal and rear axis and, with further practice have many other subtle variables.
Certainly, this is not the whole picture with Junro Yondan. The kata also forces one to master the timing and positioning of the feet, toes and ankles—in addition to "being harmonious with the technique being applied". This coordination, in relation to hip action, defines this kata.
Junro Godan is the most technically difficult in the Junro series. At face value, many do not see nor understand this. One the main reasons for this is that Junro Yondan is externally more technical; however, the underpinning transitions make Godan harder.
In particular, the ukewaza whilst turning into nekoashi-dachi are challenging (in the use of power in the arm actions as one transfers into the respective 'cat leg stances'). This example is still too obvious and fails to fully verify the overarching technical point. The real challenge is the correct transition of weight and precise moving from the center. In the case of Junro Godan, the center-line changes backwards and forwards requiring a full understanding of the seichusen; furthermore, full expression of each fundamental tachikata.
When this is understood, and practiced extensively, the theme of Godan, (Unsoku/Ashi-hakobi), can be fully appreciated, worked, and capitalized on. Thinking back to what I explained about Junro Shodan (earlier in this brief article) you will see a full circle that connects this important series of Kata.
Ok! I hope that this better helped you to understand the Junro series. Please keep in mind that their objective is to improve people’s karate: kihon, kata and kumite (self-defense) capacity. They are therefore best understood and practiced as ‘training tool’s’. In this way, one will maximize their practice-times and see immense advancements in their tokui-gata and the practical application of their karate from a budo/bujutsu standpoint.
Last, but not least, I have yet to teach beyond these points and applications—to any of my students—both here in Japan and around the world. However, there is a deeper level (to these and other kata) which I will begin sharing once they demonstrate sufficient technical ability to me. This is the ‘old way’; that is, one must earn the right (be ready) before higher skills/deeper levels are taught. There is so much to come in the future and I hope to fully pass on this knowledge, which came directly to me under the personal guidance of Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei. I also hope that this does not intimidate anyone but, rather, motivates people to train intently and with vigilance. This was the ‘Karate Way’ impressed on me from Asai Sensei, and what still really inspires me to this day. Osu, André.
© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2020).