Tuesday, 17 August 2021

試し割り (Tameshiwari)




The late Nishiyama Hidetaka Sensei demonstrating 'budo karate' tameshiwari.

By request, I have been asked to give my views on tameshiwari. So here you go! To begin, tameshiwari literally implies a ‘breaking test’, which runs parallel with the tameshigiri or 'test cutting' utilized in Iaido. Basically, tameshiwari is where the karateka attempts to break an object to test the skill and power of a particular (waza) or several of them.


Typically boards and rooftiles are used, however, sometimes river stones and bricks. In the 20th Century, breaking blocks of ice and wooden baseball bats became popular; however, many traditionalists here in Japan believe that “such demonstrations made karate look more like a 'circus act' than budo”. That's probably true as some fakers used tameshiwari as means to gain attention, then later fame. In sum, to quote one of my senpai, they used 'breaking stuff' "...to distract people from their poor technical skill".


Irrespective, tameshiwari certainly has its place in karate, but is far less important than technique itself (kihon, kata and the various forms of yakusoku-kumite, including kata application); impact training; and, indeed, jiyu-kumite.


The three best examples of tameshiwari I’ve seen were Tanaka Masahiko Sensei’s demonstration on his infamous documentary (please reference the mae-geri 'still' below); Keith Geyer Sensei’s breaking at the Tokyo Budokan (Nakahara JKA); and a 'close-range' demonstration by Yahara Mikio Sensei, when he was Fuku-Shuseki Shihan of the Asai/Matsuno JKA. Two characteristics were in all three of these awesome examples of tameshiwari. Firstly, there was no ‘hype up’ nor lining up. The attacks were immediate from shizentai with no kamae, just like the sudden pre-emptive attack in an actual fight. Secondly, every technique demonstrated by the above three 'master karateka' would literally be utterly destructive if done on human flesh and bone (as opposed to hardwood boards). In sum, this tameshiwari is directly reflective of actual karate technique being applied without control = real karate; that is, : "karate as applied in self-defense".

Tanaka Sensei's enbu of four instant and consecutive waza concludes with perfect zanshin.

These demonstrations not only exhibit ‘high level technique’, but function as the valuable ‘testing of waza’ with full ‘ichigeki-hissatsu’ potential. 

In sum, all the showboating in tameshiwari (i.e. – slow winding up with several ‘line-up movements’: to get the 'audiences' attention and gradually build up the hype), is just that: ‘showmanship’. Likewise, all the fancy unusable kicks—and other superfluous movements—are just 'bling': nothing more than metaphoric 'glitter and strobe lights'. When tameshiwari is done in this way, the meaning of it is almost completely lost with the exception of 'entertainment'. That being said, when done 'in the correct manner' (as I referenced in the three aforementioned examples) tameshiwari is an excellent test of one’s own waza and demonstration of karate power to others.

 Osu, André

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

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