2011 JKA/AF National Training Camp

Thank you Sensei Mikami and Sensei Kobayashi for an awesome camp!

Thank you Mickey for BBQ!


Sensei Kobayashi’s Teachable Point-of View (TPOV) and words of encouragement upon awarding qualification licenses:
Judges-the competitors rely on you for fairness and ensuring their safety
Instructors-keep practicing and improving your skill; your students rely on you and learn from your example.
Examiners-determine the proper rank level for your students; take care of their development and mindful not to “break their spirit”.

(6/4/11) Sensei Mikami credits Sensei Kobayashi for having one of the leading university clubs – being able to preserve the traditional budo of karate as well as successful using modern methods of training.  Sensei encouraged us to develop our “best or favorite technique” (TOKUI WAZA).  Explore what works for us, develop our strength … and take time to litmus test our technique, benchmark by challenging ourselves at tournaments once in a while.  It will certainly be part of our journey and discovery with martial arts.

KATA (Jion and Empi)
Kobayashi Sensei reminds us not to use our lower body to generate power and display large movements – performing a more dynamic form.  There are prescribed rhythm to JKA katas and we should strive to follow it – not invent our own.  Aspire for precision.  In kata, we are our own competitor.

JUDGE’S TEST:  Sensei Kobayashi being the General Manager of JKA’s Qualifications Division was truly inspirational here.  He demanded a high standard for accuracy, transparency in decision, assuredness and confidence in making calls/decisions and most importantly ensuring the well-being of the competitor – it is the “Spirit of Judging” (responsibility of judges).  He asserts that “a competition is good only if there are good judging skills”; “it should be about the competitors”.  Sensei took time to critique, correct and explain proper etiquette, gestures, best practices and decision process.  “Be decisive – indecision masks the efforts of the competitor”.  We all learnt so much – even those of us watching by the side lines.

Afternoon class: KIME
There are 3 elements in executing KIME – (1) Target (2) Speed (3) Concentration.  Every move should be delivered with kime.


(6/3/11) Morning class:  KIHON/KUMITE
Sensei Mikami started the class with a series of warm-up drills focusing on basic Kihon techniques and discipline. And then he went onto reiterate from yesterday how important “posture” is as well for Kumite (sparring). He reminded that most of us tend to be a little too high on our stances which limits our ability to react or initiate attack. He recommends we keep our ‘center of gravity’ low to the ground for better stability and increased flexibility for varying distance by adjusting shorter or longer stances to reach opponent.  Not one hard fast rule in kumite – need more practice to use judgement against many different opponents.

Richard, Gustavo, Jose Sensei, Jovany & Andre
Miami Shotokan Karate Club friends

Today, Mikami Sensei reviewed “sweeping” technique with the class.  Sensei called out that “getting the opponent to fall to the ground” is NOT THE ONLY REASON to use “sweep”.  It is also effective just to “get opponent off balance” thereby creating an opening for a follow-up technique; an effective “feint” to create an opening; or disrupt the opponent’s concentration to create an opening.  It is important to practice where to place the sweeping foot – not too high,closer toward the ankle.  Also the direction of sweep with hip action will determine effectiveness in execution.

Kobayashi Sensei piled onto the theme, reviewing Kihon – he observed that many of us waste alot of energy during our movement from one stance to another – alot of up and down movement.  He reminded us that we should aspire to keep our height constant throughout our movement and preferably “low center of gravity” with good posture.  He showed us an exercise how we tuck our legs under us with knees bent and explode to the next stance paying attention not to “hop up and down”.  Even when he broke it down for us – not an easy task (though his demo looks effortless), certainly worth investing with practice.

Caribbean contingent (Antigua, St Kitts, Bahamas)

He progressed to 5-step basic sparring citing good kihon techniques as a foundation, and called out that on the defense, a good “counter attack” has to be deliberate and with forward momentum to be convincing.  I’m guessing, “not a happenstance, knee-jerk reaction by sticking out  a limb with our posture leaning backward just to end the series!” (my pigeon interpretation of his msg delivered in Japanese mind you).  To practice the forward momentum counter attack, he modified the 1-step sparring counter to add-on a “kiri-kai” step in oizuki. For example, a jodan punch will respond with an age-uke rising block and quick follow-up by switch legs step forward punch vs the usual reverse punch counter. Pay extra attention to vary your step back according to your opponent in order to execute a strong finish with a step in punch technique. We had many rounds of rotation with varied partners focusing on a deliberate block and fast follow-up (possibly “go-no-sen”). Toward the end, he challenged us to build up speed on the counter, almost blocking in mid-movement focusing on ending with the step in technique “as one motion”. Sorta pre-empting the attack with speed of counter (edging toward “sen-no-sen”). Excellent class! very stimulating, gives fodder to how we can practice these very effective kumite techniques using 5-step and 1-step sparring exercises. A testament to world class JKA instruction!

Latin Connection (Panama, Colombia, Argentinia, Cuba, Puerto Rico)

Afternoon class:  KATA (Bassai-Dai and Kanku-Dai)
Kobayashi Sensei was as passionate in Kata instruction. Here are some of his teachable point-of-view (TPOV) on this discipline. Besides good posture and good form (a foundational mandate), there should be “kime” (focus) on every move in the kata – executing with maximum speed, power and finish (almost like katas within the kata). He observed that there is too much use of upper body and upper body strength (making us look very tense and sluggish in our movements) – the key is to utilize lower body and stability of stances to generate power and speed of each move. The upper body will follow and provide the “finish” of the kata. We need to pay close attention when shifting from stance to stance – show the intended weight distribution of each stance in the kata. Of course, all the while keeping good posture with your center axis and a low center of gravity with stances.  When first learning a kata, or teaching it – it is like a “textbook kata” just working on the form (kata).  But we should aspire to reach for a higher level of performance, injecting “kime” in every move; using all muscles in your body to move with speed and explosion in your transitions; varying the rhythm of the kata emphasizing the slow and fast movements (showing good control), in essence injecting “spirit” in the kata.  Your kata should be “ALIVE”!  Sensei encourages us to strive for this in all our katas, he called out that Bassai-Dai has 42 moves in all, and Kanku-Dai has 65 moves (the longest kata in our JKA curriculum) lots of stamina, lots of practice … GAMBATTE (keep trying your best!).

2011 JKA/AF National Training Camp (Sensei Mikami and Sensei Kobayashi)

(6/2/11) A long day of travel, leaving the home early this morning at 54 degrees and landing in New Orleans at 96 degrees with high humidity.  Made it just in the nick of time for 1st class (6pm-8pm) heading straight from the airport in our rental car. Thanks U.N.O. for an air-conditioned gym at the Human Performance Center.

Ray, Christina, Sensei(s) Mikami & Kobayashi, Khim, John

It was great to reunite with friends at this event – where many dojo members come together to train and learn from each other.   Also, a wonderful opportunity Sensei Mikami presents to JKA/AF karate-kas to be able to train under the many notable JKA instructors.

Sensei Mikami kicked off the event with a regiment of warm-up drills. Then Sensei Kobayashi reviewed KATA beginning with Heian Nidan.  For a tall man, he has beautiful low stances!  He emphasized the important of posture and preserving the central axis even when transitioning through moves.  He illustrated the point demonstrating on the 1st move of Heian Nidan – how we should begin by bending our knees to get into a back stance keeping our spine straight instead of the tendency to propel our weight and upper body towards our hand technique.  He had the class do a partner exercise where we are hip to hip, side by side ‘flanking each other” as we sink to a back stance “joined at the hip”.   He also called out the “gyaku-hamni” block to make sure our shoulder position is distinguished by a 45 degree angle in order to deflect oncoming attack (much akin to blocking position in Bassai-Dai just before the first kiai).  Then the follow-up “gyaku-zuki” after the kick should be a forward momentum toward the target instead of many who drop into the technique (hi-low).

John, Dimitri and Khim


We also reviewed Heian Sandan and Heian Yondan.  He talked about how our head position is critical in setting the stage for good posture – how when misaligned veers our weight off our central axis.  Additionally, the importance of using all our muscles in “balance” – a foundation for good posture and stance.  For example, the front stance supporting leg has to engage the top of the leg, outside thigh, inside thigh and back of leg equally balanced, else the stance would be skewed.   Also the first move of Heian Sandan – do not forget to squeeze your shoulder blades and use the back muscles for power using “expansion and contraction” to exert “explosive” techniques.

Brothers? Certainly in "spirit" - glad to reconvene and train together.

Sensei Kobayashi also contrasted Heian Yondan to Heian Nidan first moves as training how to be versatile and control our movements for fast explosive and slow controlled.  He reminded us to work on the control movements – paying attention to landing our techniques at the same time, even the slow movements.

Finally, Sensei Mikami invited a few volunteers to demonstrate a few bouts of  “kumite” – taking the opportunity to discuss with the class on best practices and distinction of shotokan and JKA techniques – “free feedback and critique”!

Phew, what a first class!  I am tired but certainly looking forward for tomorrow bright and early (7am-9am).  But first, some Jambalaya at ACME’s as a reward.  OSU!

Sensei Shiina in Miami, FL (10/26 – 10/31)

Sensei Shiina returns to the US in Miami, FL for an encore awesome karate camp!  Come for the week, or come for the weekend – you will not regret it!  Only U$150 (flat rate) … what a deal!  Train with Miami Shotokan Karate Club, with Sensei Jose Ferrand who is hosting and bringing to us “world class” karate instruction.  Don’t miss out on this exciting event.

Here is the information:

Day 1 @ Miami Shotokan Dojo (10/26)

Sensei Shiina arrives a little early before the first class with his wife Mrs. Shiina. You truly feel his presence, heartfelt friendliness and a sense of familiarity to be back at the Miami dojo. His enthusiasm and spirit is infectious … you feel compelled to respond in kind, or more accurately a “knee-jerk” reaction to his deep bellowing count! He tried to set everyone at ease, this being the first day- he encouraged students to ask more questions and relax, to warm up for the rest of the week.

(ALL RANKS CLASS)  He began with our typical JKA ground rules, emphasizing the importance of straight lines, good karate etiquette and strong spirit while in training. The first class had a mixture of brown/black belts with a sprinkling of color belts and kids, although lots of focus on Basics – it was plenty challenging.  Sensei Shiina asked everyone to be mindful with our punches – make sure to hit with the first 2 knuckles (demonstrating on makiwara), direct our techniques toward our center lifeline and deliver punches with more power using hip vibration.  DRILL:  Step back rising block reverse punch, step forward oizuki face punch.  Then with partner, one side oizuki, the other side steps back age-uke (not toe to toe, opp side) and reverse punch.  Progress with more speed. Rotate partners.   Sensei called out the 3 techniques in this lesson:  (1) Rising block with hips 45 degree;  (2) Reverse punch rotating hips to front forward and (3) Step in punch with hip vibration to generate power and end with body forward and hips to front.  Point – Gedan berai, hips although 45 degree, the joint is still closed.  He had the black belts in the class in deep front stance, slowly tracking hips sideways rotating to hips front faced while concentrating on “closed” joint.  DRILL:  zig-zag step in punch to targets down the line… many rounds with more speed and more focus.  Then he ended the class with Heian Shodan with the same feeling and adrenalin as the zig-zag drill and SPEED!

(ADVANCED CLASS)  Warm up with kicking.  Standing with feet together, right leg front kick (focus on lifting knee) snap back to front stance with right leg back.  Next, right leg front kick again (focus on extending hip joint forward) snap back to standing position. Repeat with left leg.  Point – lifting knee focus for short distance and extending hip focus on longer distance.  DRILL:  with partner standing and kicking in place.  Other person gedan berai shifting tai sabaki reverse punch.  Left hand blocking right leg kick and tai sabaki to the other side right hand blocking left leg kick.  Repeat with speed.  DRILL:  in groups of 3,  center person at kamae, steps in punch to ‘front target’ then quickly steps back turning to ‘back target’ to step in punch.  Repeat with speed and stretching the distance for the oizuki.  DRILL:  in groups of 3 at a triangle formation, center person steps in punch to ‘right target’ then back to step in punch toward ‘left target’.  Repeat with speed.  DRILL:  same group of 3 in same formation,  center person steps in punch 2 times to each target before moving to other side.  Now the target age-uke reverse punch to block and counter on each oizuki.  Point – quick step back on transition for each oizuki.  DRILL: add on an additional ‘front target.  A series of oizuki to ‘right target’ and ‘left target’ (6 times) then gedan to the front for a series of 5 oizuki face, step back age-uke.  The target reacts with step back age-uke and step forward oizuki face.  The challenge is how to execute on this drill in 7 seconds – impossible!  Well that is the benchmark for Japan National Team (of which Shiina Sensei is the Coach for next year’s JKA Funokoshi Cup in Bangkok, Thailand). We stretched a little and warmed down the class with Kata (Hangetsu, starting with left side then right side).  Shiina Sensei says that in karate, we should workout on both the right and left side (balance).  He also paused to reflect on JKA’s Sugiura Sensei’s writing (framed on Miami Shotokan’s wall), how when we train, our “body” is kamae, on alert, pumping with high energy and readiness while our “heart” is calm, thoughtful, controlled and deliberate.  This in contrast when we perform Hangetsu Kata which is the opposite where our ‘body’ is slow, controlled and deliberate while the ‘heart’ on the inside is beating fast on high alert and anticipation.

Day 2 @ Miami Shotokan Dojo (10/27)

(ALL RANKS CLASS)  Review basic blocking techniques – soto-uke, uchi-uke from standing position, then stepping forward.  Point – attention on the course of the blocking beginning from hip down position.  Transition to review the blocks in Bassai-Dai.  Make sure of proper body contraction and expansion of chest in the beginning series of blocks.  Work on slow-mo kata (which is much harder training) then explode to fast and strong.  DRILL:  from standing position left leg step forward soto-uke, in place uchi-uke, kizami-zuki, kunge gyaku-zuki (maximum reach).  Repeat for other side.  With partner, modify kizami-zuki to age-uke with a deep reverse punch responding to attacking side’s 4 punches, chudan, chudan, jodan, jodan.  Sensei reviews bunkai for Heian Nidan with color belts and Bassai-Dai with advanced belts.

(ADVANCED CLASS)  I should have guessed that it would be an intense class when Sensei Shiina took time to sufficiently “warm us up” in the beginning of class.  From seiza – knee kicks; from standing – back fist to the back, reverse punch back to standing facing front; a series of tai-sabaki blocks with reverse punch on both sides – age-uke, uchi-uke and lastly gedan-berai with kekomi counter.  With SPEED.  In groups of 4 lines – he checked our brown belt katas (Bassai-Dai, Kanku Dai, Empi and Jion).  He pointed out the importance of pivoting on the heel; expansion and contraction of chest and back muscles; and how to set up and explain bunkai for kata.  A water break to rest up before donning our sparring gloves.  Then, it is a series of “killer” zig-zag drills!  LESSONS:  (1) we spent a considerable amount of time learning how to ‘set-up’ these zig-zag formations – targets at 45 degree facing, staggering targets at varying strides not just uniform so we make adjustments for distance during the drill; (2) team spirit – the lead in the group charged with keeping the energy and spirits high (keep count, cheer, encouraging … ).  I must admit, it did not come natural for us in a drill, at a class situation to feel that kinship/camaraderie.  It took Sensei much bellowing in your face “you must talking to your team” to get us hyped up sufficiently to his satisfaction.  Hmmm… perhaps we got a glimpse of how they ingrained the envious ‘team spirit’ we see in the japanese team – it is part of their class training.  DRILL: kizami-zuki, gyaku-zuki (only 2 slides to reach target) down the line;  then with targets slightly further apart – 4 punches 2 steps (kizami-zuki, gyaku-zuki, gyaku-zuki, gyaku-zuki) down the line. Then, he separated the group under 49 years – higher intensity.  Next, 40 and under – add more intensity.  Building up to the “uber” DRILL:  in pairs, one go through the rigor down the zig-zag formation while the other wait at the last tollgate where they meet for an explosion of full blown KUMITE!  Unbridled, not tournament style, non-stop kumite until Sensei calls for “Yame”.  A couple more rounds and then a final add-on to DRILL: after “yame”, immediately ready into 2-wazari tournament style points to complete.

Day 3 @ Miami Shotokan Dojo (10/28)

(ALL RANKS CLASS)  Standing position, step back down block gyaku-zuki, back to starting.  Repeat other side.  Next, switch in place, down block gyaku-zuki.  With speed.  DRILL:  variations of one-step sparring – with partner, one side step in oizuki, other side step back age-uke (toe-to-toe), reverse punch.  The oizuki person now counters on the reverse punch with tai-sabaki, (1) down block gyaku-zuki.  Repeat with speed, 3x for each side; (2) empi elbow block, spinning 180 degree, empi with the other arm to the back of partner.  DRILL:  In groups of 3 (an “L” formation), 1st person face each other – do the previous (1) drill. Attacker continues at 90 degree turn to face next target – do the (2) drill.  Note, targets starts from standing position step back rising block reverse punch.  DRILL: In groups of 4 (a square formation), face 1st target (1) down block gyaku zuki, 90 degree turn face 2nd target (2) down block mawashi-geri jodan, and another 90 degree turn to face 3rd target (3) spinning empi to the body.  DRILL: In groups of 3 (an “L” formation), face first target  (1) empi, 90 degree turn to face 2nd target for (2) full blown kumite.  Kumite agility move left, move right, counter.  Sensei reviewed Heian Sandan with color belts and Jion with advanced belts.

(ADVANCED CLASS)  We began class rather unconventional – Sensei had us all lying face down on the floor.  The exercise was to flip your self up and roll in the air to land back face down on the floor again.  Needless to say, I ended up rolling over on my right then rolling to my left.  Not really sure what that was all about but I suppose it got us down on the floor.  The next thing we were doing was the 2 round house kick from the floor in Unsu Kata.  DRILL:  with partner, one side steps in for an attack while the other brings knee/leg up to jam foot into the attacker’s body, attacker steps back and steps forward again for an oizuki face punch.  The partner drops to the floor and round house kick to the body and flip on side to round house again to the body when the attacker switches stance to oizuki face punch again.  We reviewed Unsu Kata next.  Water break, then hand pads.  DRILL:  In groups of 3 (a mirror “L” formation), the person in the center with left foot forward faces the top of the “L” – punch gyaku-zuki chudan and kizami-zuki jodan; at the same time the partner also with right food forward initiates and counts

2010 JKA NorCal Summer Seminar (6/12-6/13)

An Excellent weekend of great instruction, camaraderie and training …

Here are more pictures of the Sensei(s) in our classes:

All Ranks Class with Sensei Mikami & Sensei Kurasako
Advanced Rank Class with Sensei Mikami & Sensei Kurasako

Our seminar was just a sample of JKA AF’s annual national camp in New Orleans last weekend. Nonetheless, we are happy to host the Sensei(s) here in the Bay Area and share the good instruction with our fellow karate-kas here in the Northern California.

We worked on “Kihon” (Basics), “Kata” (Forms) and “Kumite” (Sparring) techniques. A call out for us to work on keeping our hip position at consistent height level throughout our katas and more attention on “Zanshin” (the perfect finish) in kumite.

Dan Exams & Kyu Tests (6/13/10)
Dan Exams & Kyu Tests (6/13/10)

CONGRATULATIONS to all who passed their JKA Qualifications, DAN exams and KYU tests:

KHIM TORRES                (“C” Instructor)
CHRISTINA FOO            (“C” Judge, GODAN)
JOHN SAM                    (SANDAN)
HIDEAKI HAYASHI         (“D” Judge)
SHIN IKUNO                 (NIDAN)
KORE CHAN                  (NIDAN)
BRIAN NG                    (SHODAN)
BEN DONES                  (SHODAN)
JIMMY DONES              (SHODAN)

(1B)  Kym Masayuki Torres
(2 ) Esteban Arcaute
(4 ) Brian Lee
(4 ) Patrick Lee
(4 ) Garren Lum
(4 ) Camri Stuhler
(4 ) Ciara Stuhler
(5 ) Ivan Alvaro
(5 ) Scott Fedorchak
(5 ) William Urrutia
(5 ) Zuri Yip
(5B) Devon Ramos
(6 ) Bethany Dean
(6 ) JunJun Chan
(6 ) Patrick Hoskins
(6 ) Joseph Lee
(6 ) Gabriel Sherr
(6 ) Cherilyn Yu
(6 ) Christopher Yu
(7 ) Doreen Baires
(7 ) Sonny Batasin
(7 ) Danny Keh
(7 ) Carrie Lei

JKA Instructors: Sensei Takayuki Mikami (8th Dan) and Sensei Kenro Kurasako (7th Dan)
VENUE:  Burlingame, CA (@ Prime Time Athletic Club) Click here for directions.

All Ranks and Black Belt class in the morning ($50* – if you are a black belt you can stay for both classes)
Instructor class in the afternoon ($20*).  Black belts only but you do not have to be an instructor to attend.  This class will instructional based focusing on instructor’s training.

* Please pre-register for Saturday classes which will include a day pass to Prime Time Athletic Club ($20 value) your pass will be held at the reception for you.  Email info@jkanorcal.org to pre-register.  We will email you forms and instructions for you to mail check to our dojo or print out these JKA NorCal Summer Seminar Registration Forms and mail to JKA NorCal to pre-register.

Otherwise, walk-ins on that day you will have to pay for the day pass directly to Prime Time at the reception as well as the seminar fees to JKA NorCal for the classes.  Spectators, please pay at the reception $20 for a Prime Time Day Pass to get in.

Pre-register for upcoming seminar in June.


June 12th:  (Sat)

9:30 am – 10:45 am All Ranks Class   (Sensei Kurasako)
— 15 minutes break
11:00 am – 12:15 pm Black Belt Class
1:00 pm – 2:30 pm LUNCH SOCIAL with the Sensei(s) – Tribu Grill, San Bruno, CA
3:30 pm – 4:30 pm Instructor Class (Sensei Mikami)
6:00 pm – 8:00 pm DINNER SOCIAL with the Sensei(s) – Dinner @ Steelhead Brewery in Burlingame, CA

June 13th:  (Sun)

9:30 am – 11:00 am JKA NorCal Kyu & Dan Testing   (Sensei Kurasako and Sensei Mikami)
12 noon – 5 pm PICNIC SOCIAL with the Sensei(s) – NAPA Valley

2010 JKA AF National Camp (6/3 – 6/6)

Mark your calendar!  This year’s JKA AF National Camp is going to be from June 3- June 6th at University of New Orleans, with guest instructor Kurasako Kenro Sensei from JKA HQ, along with our Chief Instructor, Takayuki Mikami Sensei.  It’s going to be a GREAT camp, with training, qualification exams, dan exams, and more!

New Orleans, LA

New Orleans, Louisiana

June 3rd:
Registration check in
Training from 6 pm till 8 pm

June 6th:
Events to end no later than 1 pm
(give or take a few minutes).

Dan test: up to Godan
Qualification exams: up to B judge, B instructor and C examiner.

For more information and to download the camp registration packet, please see JKA AF member site http://jkaaf.org/member/

So far, Sensei Khim, Christina, Hideaki and John Sam are going to this event.  If you are interested in coordinating travel plans.  Here is our flight itinerary:

Thu 6/3/10   AA548   6:00am  SFO  DFW  11:30am
AA1292   2:25pm  DFW MSY   3:50pm

Sun 6/6/10   AA 1575   7:00pm  MSY SFO  11:40pm

2010 Spring Camp in PHX with Sensei Yaguchi

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

Notes from New Orleans – 2009 JKA AF Summer Camp

Finally arrived at New Orleans after an overnight sojourn from the Bay Area. Headed straight to the French Quarters to break fast indulging in New Orleans cuisine at Beignet Cafe (beignets, jambalaya and chicory in coffee) … hmmm not for the feint gluttens. A couple more trips to the airport as designated “dojo shuttle” had to be rewarded with etouffee for lunch in Landry’s Seafood. This city is truly “gourmet capital” of the south. Others ate alligator in nearby restaurant Mulate and take-out Butchers Deli had delicious pork-belly mint cucumber sandwiches. Presently trying to revive from post-pranial slum as class starts in about an hour. 2hr training to work off our glutteny … stay tuned.

Class: BACK TO BASICS THROUGH KATA (Mikami Sensei and Osaka Sensei)

Sensei Mikami starts class the first half hour with “warm up” – we were not only warm but drenched! 30 minutes of rigorous drills beginning with in place knee bends to lubricate the ankles leading to score counts of punches, triple punches, blocks, kicks … you name it, every basic exercise we know compressed to a half hour. I was always so thankful for the 5-min breathers!

Sensei Osaka reviewed Heians through Tekki Shodan with such precision and technicality. He started from the very beginning – how to bow (at formal V feet together, start with half-step left then half-step right) and end in Yamei (also with half-step left then half-step right back to V feet).

HEIAN SHODAN: I felt like I was learning a brand new kata. On the Gedan Berai (1st move in Heian and all ready position for Kihon) an emphasis on bending the supporting right leg before driving forward to the block (as opposed to dropping into position. He stressed the hamni hips on the block and engaging the groin muscles to drive forward to the next oizuki. Hammer-fist has only a slight bent in the elbow targeting chudan. For the series of jodan age-uke, do not reach for the preparation open hand but open naturally before every rising block. On each of the 90 degree turns, squeeze groin muscles to contract to center before expanding to next position.

HEIAN NIDAN: first move begins from Yoi to form the “box block” – do not prepare

Notes from Miami – Shiina Sensei camp

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.
~ Christina

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!

Karate Men in Miami
Karate Women in Miami

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!

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.

JKA-AF Camp ’09

For more information visit the JKA-AF website: www.jkaaf.org or contact maria@jkaaf.org
For more information visit the JKA-AF website: www.jkaaf.org or contact maria@jkaaf.org

JKA AF will be holding their 1st Annual National Camp at Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana this year. Two instructors from the Honbu Dojo will be instructing with Sensei Mikami. All karatekas who are not affiliated with the JKA are invited to take the opportunity to join in training and experience JKA karate at its best.  

“A great benefit comes from training together with an open mind
and heart and learning from each other. A special spirit and energy
emerges like fire when a group of people get together and train.”


Hosted by:             Takayuki Mikami, 8th Dan, JKA
Guest Instructor:    Yoshiharu Osaka, 8th Dan, JKA
                            Takuya Taniyama, 6th Dan, JKA

Reily Center, Tulane University Campus
New Orleans, Louisiana, USA

Thu May 28: Noon        Check-In
                   6-8pm      TRAINING
Fri May 29:   7-9am      TRAINING
                    10-11am  Judges clinic
                    1pm         Optional training
                    3-5pm      Qualifications written exam
                    5-7pm      TRAINING
Sat May 30:  7-9am      TRAINING
                    10am       Competition and judges practical exam
                    4-6pm      TRAINING
                    6:30-7pm Get together with Q&A for the Masters
Sun May 31: 7-9am      TRAINING
                    10am       Dan, Instructor’s and Examiner’s tests

$200 when registered by April 30th
$225 when registered by May 15th
$250 when registering at the door

All other qualifications fees, please refer to 2009 National Camp Package for details.

Sensei Shiina in Miami

Hosted by Sensei Jose Ferrand, 6th Dan, JKA (Miami Shotokan Karate Club) (http://www.miamishotokan.org/index.htm)
Guest Instructor: Katsutoshi Shiina, 7th Dan, JKA

Seen here with Sensei Jose Ferrand at 5th World Shoto Cup Tournament (USA vs Japan in 1994), Philadelphia, PA.


Katsutoshi Shiina is an instructor at the JKA Honbu Dojo in Tokyo. He is most notable for his international success in kumite and in recent years accomplished in kata as well. Sensei Shiina is heading to Venezuela for a training camp there and will stop over in Miami to conduct this 2-day camp May 8-9.

If you are interested, please email foo@jkanorcal.org who is attending from the Bay Area and can help with arranging logistics from here or directly to sensei@miamishotokan.org for more information.


University of Miami
Herbert Wellness Center
1241 Dickinson Drive, Coral Gables, FL 33146

Class Schedule:
May 8th, 2009 Friday: 7:00AM to 8:30AM & 6:00PM – 7:30PM
May 9th, 2009 Saturday: 10:00AM to 11:30AM & 6:00PM – 7:30PM

Fee Schedule:
$80 – 2 Days / $50 – 1 Day / $30 – 1 Class
Registration will be done on site.
Participants must present JKA Passport or Membership card.


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