Sunday, 17 October 2021

Another new YouTube video and new video links (for the last 12 months)

 This video is from my self-training at Nyu Jinja, here in Oita City, two days ago. It's not special just, just general training. In saying that, it reflects some of my base practice well, which is important for strengthening and reinforcing the synaptic connections which relate to technique and reactivity under pressure.

This repetitive work is not easy and not fun, however, all the knowledge in the world is nothing without this base, as everything will crumble under pressure against a strong and aggressive opponent.

So, I decided to post this on the site today; also, direct links to the other new videos uploaded in the last 12 months. Click, like, subscribe and comment if you have any questions or something to say.

Greetings and all the very best from Kyushu, OSU.


© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2021).




© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2021).

Tuesday, 12 October 2021

New YouTube Video

 Below is a short video just posted on my YouTube channel. It’s nothing special as it just depicts regular daily training. That being said, I hope that it offers some MOTIVATION from its normality.

 

If you haven’t already, and like the video, please subscribe to my official YouTube channel:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9sLgH7TVz9zkLQ8okjxT4QComments are also really appreciated, including questions. To be frank, the more interest shown, the more motivated I am to upload YouTube videos.

 

OK! So, below is a direct link to the video. Best wishes and training, and positive energy, from sunny Kyushu. 

押忍 André

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2021).

Tuesday, 5 October 2021

前腕胸前水平構

The 前腕胸前水平構 (‘Zenwan mune mae suihei kamae’) is included in six of the standard Shotokan kata for a total of nine times. Half of these kata are the three Tekki, one of which is a shitei-gata (Tekki Shodan); one is a sentei-gata (Jion); and two are classified as advanced jiyu-gata: Gojushiho Dai and Gojushiho Sho. Here is a summary…


Kata Movement

Tekki Shodan 9, 23

Jion 37

Tekki Nidan 16, 24

Tekki Sandan 16, 36

Gojushiho Dai 1

Gojushiho Sho 1


A key point of this Kamae is that it never occurs independently; moreover, it is always preceded by an ukewaza (and/or the Kamae itself becomes the reception) coupled with jodan ura-uchi. In the case of the two Gojushiho ‘zenwan mune mae suihei kamae’, just said before is the uke and, instead of ura-uchi, another ‘back fist attack is employed: uraken tatemawashi uchi.


In the three Tekki, of course kiba-dachi is used indicating a horizontal movement or positioning in relation to an attacker; moreover, the lead in action is always haiwan jodan nagashi-uke doji ni gedan-uke.


Jion has the most unique ‘lead in’ to this kamae and ura-uchi: from ‘ryoken jodan juji-uke’ apply saken chudan tsuki-uke doji ni uken migi kata ue kamae’. It is worth noting here that like Gojushiho Dai and Sho, ‘zenwan mune mae suihei kamae’ is completed in zenkutsu-dachi.


So 50% of this Kamae is in kiba-dachi, and to reiterate, in application this is ‘horizontal to the opponent’ or ‘shifting that way (in relation to them and/or their movement)’ and 50% is in zenkutsu-dachi (which in Jion is stationary—a flinch reaction based on the preceding shikakewaza—and, in both Shotokan versions of Gojushiho, it is proactive irimi-waza).


There are several classical—simple and highly effective—applications of this Kamae (and its surrounding movements). What’s more, they are non-specific therefore not dependent on a certain action and/or position of the opponent, require minimal fine motor skills, and are strong irrespective of physical strength or lack of it. In the case of employing zenkutsu-dachi a flinch/reflex model is employed by a generic cover up flowing into an impact.  functions just as well against a clinch or frontal grappling, a linear and circular type punch; moreover, the defense requires minimal accuracy as it is a cover. The kiba-dachi variation in involves manipulating the opponent (or, if much smaller) using the same action to manipulate oneself in relation to them, followed by applying hadaka-jime (the rear naked choke).


Without deviating from ‘zenwan mune mae suihei kamae’ we can see that this position is ‘the finisher’ in Tekk Nidan; whereas, in say Tekki Shodan, a neck wrench coupled with an ashi-barai helps ‘complete the job’.


Of course there are a lot more impressive applications to these, but these ones work, and work extremely well.


The last thing I’d like to highlight is that we can really tell, from the example of today’s subject of interest—the ‘zenwan mune mae suihei kamae’, that the original purpose of karate was, indeed, civilian self-defense. Furthermore, that our kata is full of grappling techniques mixed with percussive blows, which are highly effective in this context. Accordingly, without the understanding and practice of such waza and their proper applications, karate is an incomplete art.


At the other end of the spectrum is ‘applications for the sake of creativity’. While these such applications 'demonstrate the creativity of an instructor and cerebral karate', they are meaningless unless they are truly applicable; that is, utterly reliable and highly effective.


To conclude, it goes without saying that “…ANY WAZA or KAMAE (or movement/transition for that matter) found numerous times within the kata, is/are important”. Especially in regards to various positions/completions labeled as ‘Kamae’. Much like 'ukewaza are attacks' and 'jumps are for throws', Kamae are active positions and 'conclusions' (which are often used to control the opponent in various ways or outright conclude the fight).


© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2021).

Sunday, 3 October 2021

From the most simple KIHON to KARATE-DO

 The most important kihon is not the ‘laced up’ grading syllabus type renzokuwaza, which is mostly just for the masses; rather, it is the single waza and, indeed, small and simple renzokuwaza.


For example, techniques like ‘chudan soto-uke followed by enpi, uraken gyaku-zuki’ are commonplace in regular classes at most of the honbu dojo (of various groups and organizations). However, for the most part if you ‘get behind closed doors’—into elite level sessions (instructors classes, squad trainings, and private lessons with the top Japanese experts)—for the most part, such elaborate kihon seems to vanish. Suddenly, a metaphoric huge magnifying glass comes out to check, scrutinize and better refine the most ‘basic’ techniques.


Seeking out and accessing training from many of the best instructors in Japan, and also having the chance to spend a lot of time with them outside of the dojo, one thing is apparent: kihon for elite karateka (and certainly to reach an elite level) is raw. Now, again, you can imagine that big magnifying glass being used as 'figurative cooker' by concentrating a sharp beam of light onto your waza.


That is, there is nowhere to hide one’s faults and weaknesses. A key aspect of this point is that ‘depth as opposed to width is the focus’. This is one of the reasons that the professional instructors, here in Japan, are as good as they are. They do not just develop movements that look good and sharp, they develop workable and automatically adaptable skills that are reliable under the most maximum pressure.


So while average Karateka is working on that new combination for their next examination, the professionals are constantly practicing the most simple kihon over and over again. Furthermore, they are working on the corresponding jiyu-kumite kihon on a daily basis. Accordingly, the most simple classical kihon in combination with the freestyle rendition are seamlessly combined.


Added to this is the kihon in the form of yakusoku-kumite, impact work, jiyu-kumite drill and jiyu-kumite itself. This is topped off and integrated with kata then, application work, followed by continuous and endless cycle back through kihon.


I won’t say who, but I asked one very famous instructor, “What would happen if Shotokan dojo (plural) trained with less elaborate kihon? (like in high level sessions). The answer was “… There would be many empty dojo (again, plural)”


This same instructor then remarked to me “Do you really want to become good or do you just want to feel you are good?” What he meant was that all the ‘bling’ is just that: smoke and mirrors. If people want dangerous and highly reliable karate, they must practice ‘the most simple of the most simple’ both a lot and with great degrees of precision.


You will this in all other arts, sports and skills as well.


 In sum, as Funakoshi Gichin Sensei stated “Victory depends on simple matters” and, needless to say, the old adage: ‘There are no shortcuts but there are better ways. 


Some people can get downhearted knowing truths. I say, instead, ‘step up to the plate’. Irrespective of what level you will peak at is actually irrelevant. Why? Because it will be higher than otherwise if you take the high road! It’s like at University. Yes, C’s get degrees. However, the person who always seeks the A+ will certainly achieve higher than otherwise; moreover, mitigate the risk of failure by trying to just slip through with a pass. In addition, there is another dimension to this, which is dear to me. This is the inertia that effort and successes bring. This aspect feeds motivation when combined with guts, planning and clear cut achievement objectives/goals.


With these points in mind, just do it! Accept limitations and barriers. They are not there to put you down. Rather they are literally ‘your friends’ telling you ‘where you must go’, or at least ‘where to aim towards’. Needless to say, and as I have already stated, this is just as much as (if not, more) a psychological journey. Isn’t that a big part of 道 (Do) in Karate-Do? Simple kihon is at the core of this process, actually the vehicle itself. 


Osu, André 

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2021).

Thursday, 30 September 2021

New YOUTUBE upload

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2021).

 This is one of the initial basic stationary drills for the practice of open handed uchiwaza. In this case, shuto sotomawashi uchi, shuto uchimawashi uchi, shuto tateotoshi uchi and haito sotomawashi uchi.


Wednesday, 29 September 2021

Variations of kihon for advanced karateka: A brief example of hips and shoulders

Today I’d like to use two major joints/regions of the body to elucidate the essential ‘advanced variations’ in karate as bujutsu. Today, a brief case study of the hips and shoulders. Of course, the hips and shoulders are the base joints for all four respective limbs, so their utilization—technically and level of control and flexibility—is of paramount importance.

Classical training underpins freestyle but cannot effectively work without it.

In saying that, I’d like to shift away from the technical execution and turn to their use in actual fighting, at least at an entry point.

 

Obviously, pure kihon (the 'standard foundational techniques') is the baseline for everything else. Nevertheless, while this is always a major aspect of practice, to reach a high level in karate 'as bujutsu' (that is, karate as an optimal unarmed combat system), one cannot train only at this baseline. Irrespective of “...how good one becomes at the ‘standard kihon’ (also kata, and 'karate centric kumite'), this alone will not fully translate into effective techniques in the real world”.

 

Rather, from the reference point of the base kihon, “...one must spontaneously deviate accordingly, in response to any given circumstance of violence, and do so in relation to one’s own unique attributes”.

 

Now, returning specifically to today's topic: the hips and shoulders...

 

Firstly, let me begin with koshi (the hips). It’s important for people who don’t speak Japanese to understand that Japanese mean your back and butt when they mean ‘the hips’; also, ‘the waist. Often I find westerners get fixated on the kokansetsu (the hip joints). Instead of doing this, to properly ‘use your hips’ you must focus on using the entire aforementioned region which, of course ‘includes the kokansetsu’.

 

Of course you can rotate the hips into various degrees of hanmi and gyaku-hanmi, from these positions to and from shomen, simultaneously thrust the hips forward or do so independently, drop the hips, raise the hips, and tilt them.

 

These are all ‘standard’... Moreover, they all vertical and, occasionally, straight line horizontal postures.

 

In actual fighting, outside of karate matches, this upright posture is often dangerous. That is why, breaking the posture of the hips in defense and for more spring in offensive techniques is an important skill. The most obvious example of this is Asai Sensei’s posture, which he was and still is, often criticized for. That is, he allowed his koshi to relax rearward to slightly fold his body. In actual fact, this position allows much more cover, is far more mobile, and as said before—allows greater thrust/spring for attacks (like the pulling back of a bow string). Yes, it’s not the beautiful standard straight postured position, but this position is like a person holding a bow but yet to pull back the string to fire it. But again, in saying that, without the standard position, one cannot maximize this more practical position.

 

Secondly, allow me to explain kata (the shoulders) from this advanced perspective. I’ll just give one example today.

 

Of course, in the majority of tsukiwaza the shoulder is kept down and relaxed. This is utterly essential for speed and connection to the torso, most obviously to connect and harmoniously interact with the latissimus-dorsi muscles.

 

However, in real fighting it is often very important to raise the shoulders and/or lower the head in relation to the shoulders as we make our tsuki. In this way we gain maximum coverage from the opponents blows in that moment.

 

Again, the reference point of standard kihon is essential, but one must also practice ‘practical variation from this point’. I was taught that yama-zuki—with both closed fists (Bassai Dai and Wankan) and with open hands (Roshu, Hachimon, Kakuyoku Sandan, Senka etcetera) is, amongst things, representative of this application.

 

To conclude, I believe (actually, I know) that when we practice karate techniques in more natural and practical way the standard kihon, kata and yakusoku kumite gain even greater value/importance in one’s training regime. However, if people merely stick to these aspects, one’s karate becomes limited to the context of karate; that is, Dojo Kumite and Karate competitions. While this is fine, it is not the full art of karate nor fulfills its original purpose: of being Bujutsu.

 

The wonderful thing here is that, with strong standard karate and conscientious effort, the springboard for developing bujutsu karate is already there. It’s just a matter of further refining these standard skills and, most importantly, expanding on this by training the variations from these respective baselines. This point has been a high priority of my karate thanks to the guidance of wonderful seniors: both here in Japan and abroad.

Ura-mawashi-geri. Kamakura, 2002.

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2021).

Tuesday, 21 September 2021

Very disappointed, but will push forward!

Two days ago my HP laptop suddenly just died and several new projects were lost which, of course, was very disappointing.

What’s most disturbing is that I bought the device in Nevada, USA, in 2019. So it’s pretty new!  Moreover, nothing happened, it just died out of the blue. No signs, nothing. I tried all of the checks and tricks, and finally took it to professionals. The result is that ‘it suddenly and randomly died’.


I will say this now. I will NEVER BUY AN HP (Hewlett-Packard)

DEVICE AGAIN. Furthermore, I have had it with Windows. I’m switching fully to Apple now which, until this saga occurred, I would have never dreamed of.


Anyway, this post is giving the birdie to Windows and Hewlett-Packard. 


Returning to karate… This situation has delayed some ongoing projects and completely deleted others. The beauty of this is that, regardless of articles, photo, and film, all of this is in our minds and bodies. Therefore as a karateka I can reproduce everything (irrespective of tech). The downer is that I need re-do things. Actually, I was about to release a new video, and that was lost. So very disappointing.


So, from now, I want to purchase and learn how use a Macintosh, which (based on all the crap Windows has given me), will result in superior projects. 


I want to apologize for the delays in my written work and videos now, but hope that you will all be enthused by past channel content; moreover, that it motivates your training and contributes to increased knowledge.


Here is a playlist from my official YouTube channel. Please check it out and make some comments on the videos. What would you like to see/learn?


https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLg60uQh-qeJVC7Sm_AAFLck2gl1uRQlSR


I really believe in turning negatives into positives. Of course that is not always possible when the line is crossed, but until that point it is.


That’s the only control we have. 


Consequently, it’s utterly imperative to push forward as far as possible with proactivity, a positive attitude and fortitude.


I want wrap up by saying one thing: 押忍 (Osu).


© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2021).

 


Tuesday, 14 September 2021

浪返し (Nami-Gaeshi): A much stronger, more effective, and healthier way.

 浪返し

なみがえし

Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei executing hidari ashi hidari nami-gaeshi (Tekki Shodan Kata).

(NAMI-GAESHI) 

Nami-gaeshi literally translates ‘wave return’ or probably better described in English as ‘returning wave’. The name is derived from the leg action that resembles an ocean wave rolling out then rolling back onto the shore. Of course, the leg action mirrors this, in then out, which is said to represent ‘a constant state of flux’. Beside training in kihon it is first practiced in 鉄騎初段 (Tekki Shodan); later, the fifth常行 (Joko); 騎馬拳 (Kibaken) and, indeed, other kata.

 

More important than ‘how this waza looks’ and poetic banter, I want to emphasize its functionality; that is, ‘nami-gaeshi for optimal application’. Based on this objective I will need to explain ‘how to do it’. Now, before I go on, I’d like to stress that what I’m going to describe today is ‘not the standard/general method’ of executing this waza. In fact, the majority of instructors will say this is incorrect (if they knew this method). However, it is literally undetectable, even by the most experienced instructors here in Japan.

 

The reason I adamantly recommend the method, I going to describe today, is threefold: (1) It works better when fighting (especially for ashi-barai (leg/foot sweeping) and/or nagewaza (throwing), also for leg checks and stamps; (2) It works better because it uses the joints, ligaments, tendon and muscles ‘naturally’, also it maximizes ‘gravity-based recovery’, which makes it more explosive; and (3) By being so natural, it does not harm the body.

 

Hopefully, I have your attention now, and hopefully you can also adopt this superior version of nami-gaeshi.



 

To begin with… Let’s consider ‘the standard nami gaeshi’ movement.  Basically, from kiba-dachi you swing each leg inwards and upwards with knee fixed. The leg swings up and becomes parallel with the fixed knee to ‘form an attractive straight line (from the knee, shin, and ankle)’. In Shotokan we also ensure that the leg is ‘in front’ as opposed to being under the stance.

 

So, what are the problems with this? Firstly, connecting points 1 and 2 above, (to varying degrees, but inevitably) it twists the knee; that is, it somewhat uses the knee like a ball and socket joint as opposed to being natural (needless to say, while the knee has this capacity). In any case, unless you are genetically very fortunate, this will be contorting your knee joint.

 

Accordingly, the more natural (safe) and powerful method is to use the knee in the way it’s designed: as a hinge joint. Also, to full engage the hips (I will expand on this at the end of this article – beyond the basic movement). In this way one can apply far more power and not contort the sensitive ligaments and tendons of your knees.

 

How to do this? As I have already said, at ‘regular speed’, this is pretty much indecipherable! So please bear with me on this…

 

At the start of your action simultaneous push the hip of nami-gaeshi leg forward and rotate the heel of the leg towards the front. When you swing the leg up in this manner, it does not twist but remains in-line (a perfect hinge joint) action. Just to recapitulate, this means that you can sweep and/or impact, or evade, more speedily. Furthermore, by intentionally off-balancing yourself, you can ‘rapidly’ return to kiba-dachi, by maximizing the basic rules of juryoku (gravity). There is another bonus here as well. The ‘hinge joint/natural pushing forward of the hip and rotation of the feel to the front’ also requires 'recovery’—to return to a proper kiba-dachi—which, also contributes to the counter action. Bonus: This is superior if the waza is applied as a fumikomi or leg check. Obviously, if using in reality the positioning is not so set; nevertheless, the practice from kiba-dachi makes it far easier to apply in a natural manner: especially when using the stance as a transitional point in the process of tai-sabaki. 

As I mentioned earlier, there is another element to the hip action. Once this method is sufficiently refined you can add to the aforementioned hip movement by also slightly scooping the nami-gaeshi legs hip. This further contributes to power and effectiveness, and also the counteraction. This perfectly aligns with points made on my ‘Kinetic Chain’ and ‘Impact Power’ articles. In this regard, “…one can think of the hip and knee functioning as a single unit” flowing in and out like the action of a whip: again, the all-important ‘wave action’. Another good example, for the pushing and twisting actions, is that of baseball pitcher throwing a spin ball. Suddenly, we can see Asai Sensei’s “…Muchiken (Whip-fist) expressed in leg/foot techniques”. This is very important to understand and perfect, especially as we age!

 

I want emphasize here that this ‘Asai style’ method of nami-gaeshi was proven firsthand to me as being ‘more easily applicable and highly effective’ not only when I used to compete, but also when I worked in security. Rather than being a technique with a highly specified/limited range of use (and somewhat questionable reliability, insofar as power is concerned) this method makes nami-gaeshi a highly robust and broadly applicable karate-waza.

 

Finally, I hope that this article contributes not only to ‘more efficient nami-gaeshi’ but also healthier knee joints, tendons and ligaments. I believed Karate should be—if one wishes—‘Lifetime Budo’. As such, “…outdated movements, which damage the body, must be improved/refined, so they are no longer detrimental for our health”. This has even greater value if ‘form is not compromised’; moreover, the respective techniques are made more effective. What I have presented here today, with nami-gaeshi, is an example of fulfilling these points. Best of health and training, Osu! André 

"Biomechanically sound movement and optimal explosiveness are one; therefore, we not only protecting our bodies, when we move naturally, but also maximize our efficiency in application."
(T. Asai)

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2021).

Saturday, 11 September 2021

SIMPLIFIED IMPACT POWER SCIENCE FOR THE PERCUSSIVE TECHNIQUES OF KARATE


SIMPLIFIED IMPACT POWER SCIENCE FOR THE PERCUSSIVE TECHNIQUES OF KARATE

 

When discussing the science behind the percussive blows of Shotokan Karate there are, of course, numerous ways to do so. However, irrespective of the angle we take, we must take heed the underpinning ‘base science’. Today I thought I’d spell this out in the simplest terms, which can be directly used in training—by anyone—to increase impact power. I’ll do this, in this post, by outlining three key points.

 

Firstly, FORCE (the IMPULSE—MOMENTUM RELATIONSHIP) and the factors involved (velocity, mass, and structure). Secondly, it is also necessary to expand this by elucidating ‘The KINETIC CHAIN. Thirdly, I’ll conclude with BODY STRUCTURE’ to essentially support the kinetic chain. Taken as a whole, all three of these aspects collectively underpin the level of Kinetic Energy that can be transferred into a target.

 

‘The Impulse—Momentum Relationship’ is derived from Newton’s Second Law of Motion. Keeping this nice and simple, the concept refers to the physics of mass and velocity in karate ‘tsuki’, ‘keri’ and ‘uchi’ (and indeed ‘ukewaza’ as well, when applied as a percussive attack). Basically, this is the combination of speed and strength ‘behind your respective waza’. In sum, Newton’s Second Law of Motion can be simplified into ‘FORCE = MASS x ACCELERATION’. The elements in this equation can be further and better expressed as KINETIC ENERGY (KE). Of course, kinetic energy is the energy an object has due to motion; thus, in karate this is a fist, open hand, elbow, knee, foot, and so on. This is the formula that is referred to as ‘the Impulse—Momentum Relationship’, which allows one “…to acquire much more specific information about ‘the underpinnings’ of power generation”. Firstly, it establishes that the velocity (speed) has more of an influence on the energy of karate waza than mass (weight). Again, in the most laymen’s terms, this is because velocity is squared. This is precisely why science shows that it is more important to throw a rapid technique than a heavy one. Of course, however, it is obvious that both are still important. For example, a very fast kizami-zuki with no weight behind it would obviously have very limited impact power.

 

Overall, “…the most destructive karate-waza will both maximize the mass (weight) behind them and, more importantly, maximize velocity (speed)”. On top of this, engaging ‘the entire body’ in an optimally coordinated way’—optimizing the Kinetic Chain—will further increase the destructiveness of one’s percussive blows.

 

Whilst understanding the ‘Impulse—Momentum Relationship’ provides “…a mathematical basis for understanding the forces that make up the percussive blows of karate”, it doesn’t fully really explain what goes into these respective forces.

 

‘The Kinetic Chain’: Firstly, as previous as I previously stated, “one must attempt to maximize the mass behind the respective waza being applied”. This is achieved by engaging the entire body. To comprehend what this actually means, one has to understand ‘the Kinetic Chain’. Once again, in basic terms, this is the linking of the muscles throughout the body to optimally accomplish a single movement/action. The most powerful waza will activate multiple muscle groups; moreover, link these different muscle groups together in one fluid motion. This is something I’ve written and taught a lot about—not only pertaining to muscles but also to the joints—which, I learned via Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei’s teachings. In fact, for those who follow Asai Sensei’s karate, this is more important; however, today I am writing more generally and ‘muscle focused. If you are further interested, here is an article homing in on using the joints for ‘snap’—actually a more advanced ‘perspective’ than today—here’s a direct link: André Bertel's Karate-Do: The Kinetic Chain (andrebertel.blogspot.com)

 

Overall, the better you can “…link these muscles together (and especially, the joints) in one seamless and correctly ordered motion”, the more destructive one’s respective waza will be.

 

‘Body Structure’: Consider facing a pitcher with both a solid bat and a broken one. In the case of solid bat, it can transfer a large amount of force—as a solid piece of wood—into the incoming ball. Conversely, the broken bat, upon striking the ball, it will absorb a significant amount of force; thus, reducing the power of the impact to propel the ball.

 

With this example in mind, it is easy to determine that poor form and structure in uke, tsuki, keri and uchi will have the same results; that is, “your body will absorb back a percentage of the targets power. Therefore, we must train to reduce metaphoric breaking points in our body structure. In this regard, correct joint alignment will significantly (and simultaneously) increase the efficacy of karate-waza and help to protect our joints.

 

Lastly, I want emphasize the need for karateka to apply these in points in their physical training. In particular, from this basic understanding, one can test and refine techniques so that their maximum potential can be realized. Overall, while this article has been very generic, simple, and probably not that well written, I believe the content presented today is very worth giving attention to: in order to evaluate and improve percussive/impact power.

 

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2021).

Tuesday, 7 September 2021

THROW YOURSELF!

I was recently asked to talk about why there are jumps in the Shotokan kata, which pre-Shotokan just weren't there. Now before I answer that question, I want to emphasize that my answer to this question is second-hand; that is, and obviously, I can only reply to this question by what I’ve been told from some of my seniors here in Japan. That being said, I think the answer is logical: they are good for training and better for applying this these kata movements. In sum, pragmatic and, I have to say, 'cool' as well. Therefore, I will share this with you today.

As you will know, older versions of the kata, for the most part, do not have many of these jumps. To make the list, not too exhaustive, I will focus on the standard Shotokan Kata featuring tobi-waza (excluding the majority of low jumps and Nidan-keriwaza). These kata are Heian Godan (Pinan Godan), Enpi (Wanshu), Kanku Sho (Kosukun Sho/Kushanku Sho), Unsu (Unshu) and Meikyo (Rohai).

 

In most cases, up until Shotokan, the jumps in these kata were 'grounded turns'; nevertheless, the actual applications were the same.

 

So, who and why were the jumps added???

 

Apparently, Funakoshi Yoshitaka (Gigo) Sensei, overseen by Funakoshi Gichin Sensei, decided to increase the athleticism of the turns. However, this extra requirement of muscular spring was “…to strengthen the lower body (for the application of the respective waza being applied)”. Put another way, “when the kata is practiced by oneself, there is no training partner to throw”; thus, one throws themselves. You see, ‘the jump trains the main muscles you actually use to throw someone in addition to the turns (which tell us the direction of ‘push and pull’/leverage in order to make that particular throw).

 

Meikyo Kata: The SANKAKU-TOBI.

Nevertheless, it doesn’t end there. There are of course exceptions. For example, the Sankaku-tobi of Meikyo is literally a takedown utilizing the combination of tenshin (rotation) and juryoku (gravity) in combination with ‘migi hiji sasho ate’. 

The second jump in Kanku Sho is a ‘mikazuki-geri/migi sasho-ate’ followed immediately by ‘a level and sharp falling twisting jump’. Within this is, of course, is the ushiro-kekomi completed by a duck’. In this case, the ‘jumping action’ is “…to enable immediate multi-directional keriwaza”. Indeed, Unsu has a high jump with the same meaning of Kanku-Sho; however, it also can be applied when one’s leg is grabbed (you jump and kick the opponent with the grounded foot—mikazuki-geri, free the other leg, then you kick them again—with ushiro-kekomi). Alteratively, it is also a template for all five versions of Kani-basami.

Here I'm using Kani-Basami in Jiyu Kumite during an exam.

Just to confirm (and going in reverse order): the jump in Enpi and the first jump in Kanku-Sho are both ‘Kata-Guruma’. Lastly, the jump in Heian Godan is ‘Seoi-Nage’.

 

I need to go, ever so slightly, off topic here. As I have written about so much in the past, Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei stressed ‘three types/styles/modes’ of karate: “standing, grounded and jumping”. He topped these off with his one of his ‘tokuiwaza’—TENSHIN (rotating/spinning). When you combine these aspects, and think about the aforementioned applications, I think that one can have a foundational understanding and unpredictability of Asai Karate.

As already mentioned, the strength benefits from jumping cannot be underestimated. Plyometric exercises and jumping techniques not found in the kata irrefutably have their benefits: especially pertaining to ‘increasing explosiveness’. In addition to this, “…accuracy determined by body control are also useful skills for budoka”; accordingly, the physical education gained from various jumps is significant.

I’d like to wrap up by saying what I always say about kata and their respective oyo (application). Yes, the solo practice of the kata is important as we can really develop our form; furthermore, we can do techniques at full-speed/with maximum capacity without needing to ‘put the breaks on’ (which is obviously essential to avoid injuring training partners). Nonetheless, solo practice is not enough on its own. Of course, it is impossible to make the techniques in the kata ‘functional’ without extensive partner training of the respective kata movements. This point cannot be overstated nor overlooked! Otherwise, kata is nothing more than movement resembling karate, but with no real meaning. Kata in such a shallow way might function as a method of physical fitness/strengthening, however, if that is the case, I believe it would be much more productive spending more time doing resistance training. This in itself is proof that kata includes this aspect, but must also include maximum applicability in conjunction with optimal form and visa-versa.

© André Bertel, Oita City. Japan (2021).