Day One: first class 6-7:30pm EST
Arrived at the University of Miami Wellness Center early at 5:35pm. Was worried about Silvia who landed in FLL at 4:08pm driving down to Miami in a rental car directed by her GPS. Thankfully, she finally got here just about when the class was starting. There was about 40 people in attendance, many of whom I haven’t seen in ages. Was happy to see John who took care of my dying dog back in 2000 when I moved to San Francisco!
Sensei Shiina started us with step-in oizuki chudan, kiri-kai and another oizuki chudan – faster & faster responding to his count. Alot of speed, paying attention to hip forward and straight while maintaining stance height during transition. He emphasized how important kiai was to training, but keeping the discipline to kiai on each 10th count and no other. He had some awesome drills following, but what was significant to me was him reorganizing the class into age groups. The kids were called out to the first row, the under 20yo’s and 30yo’s in the next row, and then the under 50yo’s and over 50yo’s in the next 2 rows respectively. He had everyone training hard – giving the younger, spryer ones more of a physical challenge (faster, longer strides and distance to cover etc). This kept the younger folks completely engaged physically and the older groups as engaged in their pace. He talked about how we should be continually pushing ourselves to improving distance and speed of our attacks during training. In particular, he called out the significance of inside tension of our stance helping propel us forward as oppose to dissipating the momentum if our knees or feet are pointing outward while moving forward.
We were sweating and high on adrenalin that came to a crash when Sensei ripped off Frankie’s blister (with kime) at the bottom of his foot! Grimaces of compassion was audible among the class, though Sensei reinforced that we should venture to train until callusses form. Oh how I could really use a pedicure after camp!
He reviewed kata – Heians for the color belts and Bassai-dai & Kanku-dai for the advanced belts. There was good discussion about bunkai and more emphasis on feet positioning (directing power forward to the next move). Refreshingly, an ample opportunity (invitation and encouragement from Sensei) for the class to ask questions of him. Very stimulating!
After class, we convened at the Mexican restaurant next to Miami Shotokan Karate Club dojo for dinner. And of course followed by fun-filled comaraderie with lots of stories from both Sensei Shiina and Sensei Jose Ferrand. Sensei Shiina told of his adventures teaching at international camps where subtleties of cultures come to play. We also reminisced about 1994 JKA world tournament in Philly when Sensei Jose and Sensei Shiina squared off during USA vs. Japan Team Kumite. A personal highlight for me when I whipped out an old photo of my brother and me with Sensei Shiina at that venue to share – CHINO, SHIINA & CHINA photo!
All in all, a fantastic ending for our first day at camp. More to come tomorrow… stay tuned.
Day Two: second class 10-11:30am EST (Kata)
10 am class – what bliss! Sure beats a 6am regiment. Even then, we got there just in time (phew!).
This morning’s class had heavy emphasis on hip rotation/hip vibration and the distinction when to use which. We need to pay close attention to hip sideways for blocks and hip forward for attacks – use hips for techniques not only upper body. Sensei shared an adaptation of Heian Shodan kata he did 200 times a day (a regiment that he attributes to helping him win GOLD for kata at the World tournament). He again stressed on pivoting on the ankle driving momentum forward toward the next direction. Today’s kata review – Empi & Jion. Sensei took extra care to quiz and explain application of kata moves (bunkai). He fielded many questions from the group regarding varied kata segments – such as Jitte, Chinte, Bassai-dai, Kanku-dai. There is still so much more to learn about Jitte for me (thankful for the added perspective on applications).
Sensei singled out the candidates for Nidan and Sandan – to review and coach their favorite katas. He will be conducting Dan testing later this afternoon. Kata techniques should be big and expansive as should kihon techniques – this will lead to an easier ability to bridge distance for kumite and stronger techniques. He went over the “multi-directional in place kicks” – make sure that there is no counter reactive motion in the body – momentum yet again needs to follow through toward the direction of the kicks. As Sensei was coaching the Dan candidates, it occurred to me that this is the first time I witnessed an examiner take the time to teach and make clear his expectations for grading – very refreshing!
Day Two: Dan tests 4-5:30pm EST (@ Miami Shotokan Karate Club)
What a grueling test! Kihon (he was scrutinizing on hip rotation and hip vibration); Bunkai questions (he asked many questions which we reviewed at class earlier); he reintroduced the Pen test (speed, control and accuracy in punching the pen); many many rounds of Kumite. He demanded “spirit” – OSU and KIAI when called and at ready in the way that only Shiina can deliver (from the diaphragm with thunderous Kime).
It was nerve-racking even for the family and friends that were there, let alone the candidates on the floor. Very difficult to relax and some mistakes were made, despite Shiina Sensei’s encouragement to “relaaaxx”. Nonetheless, I am certain that half the assessments were already made in this morning’s class. The test was definitely more of a teaching moment for all. At the close, Gustavito was able to surprise Shiina Sensei by leading an eloquent “Dojo Kun” in Japanese (pride for Sensei Jose). Congratulations to All passing the grade!
Day Two: third class 6-7:30pm EST (Kumite)
Last class, how can he possibly best the last two class and the Dan test? No doubt, he saved the best for last – KUMITE, KUMITE, KUMITE!
We began with a series of drills to warm us into motion – and yes one of those in place switch stance with no hop hurt my ankles exercises; another one that distinguishes close range kick (using knee up) vs long range kick (extending hips) and a call out to how JKA uses mawashigeri to bridge distance specifically with the ankle position of the foot … enlightening. We went onto partner drills focusing on TIMING and tai-sabaki (an exercise to dodge partner’s deep oizuki chudan attack by slight shifting of hips out of the way) progressing to SPEED by beating your partner to the punch (one side initiating reverse punch to the body while the other side reverse punches to the face, both step back and both quickly springing forward to oizuki-gyaku-zuki before the other). Thereafter followed by a preset series of techniques leading to FREE-SPARRING until a clear point is scored.
Alot of speed and endurance at one point we had a zigzag formation where you would free spar (best shot in 3 secs a round) with every target in the formation down the hall (5 rounds of it!). It was grueling but exhilarating! All the while hearing Shiina Sensei’s guterral call to go faster and faster. Sensei pushed the young ones hard – I have not seen the kids and the young adults sweat this much in any camp – and not one complain. I can tell that they too were high on Sensei’s energy.
Sensei encouraged us to spar about 2-3 times a week. He shared that he and Imamura Sensei are co-coaching the Japanese National Team. And this exact Kumite training is what the Japanese Team goes through to prepare for tournament. He hopes that we will continue on this regiment and one day, USA and JAPAN will have another opportunity to square off again with great techniques. He reminded us that karate is a dangerous activity – we must be serious in training and focused in practice to avoid injury and accidents.
“This camp is over the top!” “Best camp ever” “Shiina Sensei Rocks” “I’ve learned so much” “He’s truly inspired me”
A hugely successful camp – folks are echoing resounding good feedback – beyond their muscles, feet and callusses screaming about the great workout, everyone enjoyed themselves. It is a testimony to how Shiina Sensei gave it his all over the two-days of camp – and everything with Kime like it resonates from his gut! From his Kiai, to his teaching, his encouragement and reprimands, his stories and time socializing with us over meals/drinks after class, how he plays basketball with the kids before class and most of all his patience with the many photo ops he had to endure. He spent every moment teaching and leading by example and actions that exemplify his belief that “KARATE COMES FROM THE HEART”.
I do hope that Sensei Jose will be able to bring Sensei Shiina back for an annual affair and for those of you who could not make it this time will have another opportunity to experience an awesome teacher.