It is Spring and the start of camp season through the summer (April – August). You may already have plans or balancing your schedule deciding which events to participate (karate camps, summer camps, family vacation … always a struggle … so much to do, so little time). For me, mine begins somewhat close to home in PHX with an invitation from Sensei Coburn to join in their Spring Karate Do training with Sensei Yaguchi and Sensei Fields.
I received a heart felt personalized email from Sensei Coburn earlier in the year with images from when I last attended a couple of years ago, asking me when I will be returning again. OMG, Sensei “email marketed me” … and it worked! It reminded me of the fun I had then and the people I enjoyed training with. Immediately I made plans to go.
Thu (4/15) : Thank heavens I filed my taxes a couple days ago so that I can freely enjoy the camp. A smooth travel from OAK-PHX, heading straight to dinner upon arrival (what a perfect way to start camp right?!). Reconnected with karate family: Sensei Yaguchi, Sensei Coburn, Cheryl, Jeff, Joan, Fred, Eli and Sergei at Yoko’s family restaurant Cherry Blossom. Good food, sharing good cheer and reminiscing about karate stories. The highlight was browsing through Jeff Heermans’ Vail Shotokan Karate website and enjoying the wonderful tribute that Sensei Cathy Cline put together for Sensei Yaguchi’s 77th Birthday on uTube.
Fri (4/16): Early morning 7:30am optional class with Yaguchi Sensei at Shotokan Karate of Arizona dojo. As usual, an awesome class! Such attention to detail, great foundational principles for shotokan karate. Sensei need only give me a look and I understand and know what he wants me to self correct …
He reminds us the difference between “MAKE technique” and “USE technique” – how in training we should pay attention to proper form and execute correctly thereby MAKING the technique to ensure safe training and pushing for our full potential to the form; while in kumite or with partner, we will naturally find the opening and USE the technique for best delivery depending on the situation. Alot of emphasis on the KNEE POSITION. Our individual BODY WIDTH should be uniform in all our stances as should be the tension – what differs in the stances is the knee position (he demonstrated with front stance, back stance, sochiin stance, hangetsu stance and sanjin stance). He also called out for upper body WEIGHT DISTRIBUTION to be a tad (2 degrees) forward which will best prepare for forward moving momentum. We reviewed Heian Nidan empahsizing on these points.
When teaching one of the drills, he took the time to break down in rudimentary details … (1) stand at open natural stance; (2) in place bend both knees; (3) in place twist body 45 degree to the right; (4) retract right foot tracking half moon motion to the back – end at left leg front stance position; left arm raised to rising block position (5) slight rotate right knee while pushing right hip forward delivering right hand reverse punch. Are you following? Starting from “yoi” four counts on this drill eventually executing to one count for a “smooth delivery” for this step back right leg rising block reverse punch from yoi technique. Note: smooth delivery means step and punch ending at the same time! Can’t wait for next class at 5:30pm …
Sensei reinforced much of the same principles reviewed at the earlier class for the general class. He highlighted the importance of moving as one unit leading with the hips. Good posture by aligning shoulder joint, hip joint and knee joint – grounding power downward in forward motion for stability and power. We spent much time on the Back Stance – paying attention to knee position and knife hand position being no more than a fist distance between elbow and rib; fingertips no higher than your shoulder. We then reviewed Heian Sandan in detail – challenging physically the form and mentally focused doing it in opposite direction.
Sat & Sun (4/17-18): Sensei worked on FUDO-DACHI- it begins with a body-width kiba-dachi stance in a 45 degree angle (feet) but with body completely front facing; knees outward tension with weight slightly towards the front. We had quite a few combination drills to practice. Then we reviewed CHINTE. Points for CHINTE: The essence is in the transition from fudo-dachi to zen-kutsu-dachi (it has to be quick and sharp, keeping same height during transition). Alot of large circular moves in the techniques for this KATA.
Move #1 in a course of rising block, ending with arm outstretched but slightly bent, fist no higher or lower than shoulder. Retraction in Move #2 bumps left fist at chest to initiate next rising block course to opposite direction. Move #3 drops to a kiba-dachi and double arm rising block (need to drive course with elbows close to body, finger tips slightly overlapping). Next 2 moves are fudo-dachi to zen-kutsu-dachi with arms outreached using ta-te-uchi as target for reverse punch (do not grab fist). Kiai on the empi for the third series (also do not grab elbow-just target). Following that, a quick transition to back stance. Another back stance then jodan migeri in place (do not stand up, keep height even) with double arm block (inside uchi-uke and gedan berai) like Heian Sandan with body facing completely front. Next move initiates with a twist of the right forearm for a gedan inside block follow through wide circular track over the top to end at gedan outside block. Note the arm blocks have to coordinate to end same time as left leg steps forth to stand up feet together upright. Next two circular blocks begins with arms (tracking like “ferris wheel”) first and as arms come around to the last quarter round, shift in kiba-dachi back the opposite direction. Following that, the double inside block (chudan) shifts same time to the left. Next slow recovery to the one-legged stance with double arm gedan berai on the both side of the body. Note, not to double block but move directly from uchi-uke to gedan berai. Descend next to front stance one finger strike (in circular motion) followed by other arm one finger strike on top of right top of hand (end with body front facing). Next two-finger uchi-uke is executed in place with focus using hip vibration to body hamni position (chudan). Then step forward front stance with two-finger rising punch. Step back turn around deliver the same block and attack to the back. Change direction to a fudo-dachi outside in right palm strike, in place left palm strike to meet right palm (paper distance gap) transitions into front stance. Then in place double gedan berai to the sides of the body (much akin to pulling motion in Jion). Next turn around double kidney strike in a bear hug position to fud0-dachi (fists body width apart). Use back muscles to to round shoulders on the strike for focus. Smooth transitions on the next two series of fudo-dachi to zen-kutsu-dachi target punches. Finally, retract to standing stance and “skoot” back three times (not hopping but feet brushing on the floor) to end with bent knees straightening up. Feet open on formal “vee” on the bow for balance.
Other Principles: Sensei talked about Omoto-Waza and Ura-Waza (front technique and back technique) executing in balance as “best technique”. He also called out the importance of being “on target” and how the precision of target differs in Kata and Kumite. For Kata, there it requires for point precision. For example, there is only one spot for Chudan (solar plexis) while for Kumite, any spot on the torso counts for Chudan. Therefore for Kata if we strike “out of target”, it is not a “mistake” but points will be deducted for “bad technique”. When attacking, we initiate with the “goal/intent” of striking through your opponent but having the “control” to end just paper distance before.
Other Kata(s) reviewed: Bassai-Sho, Empi, Jion, Kanku-Dai