Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Hawaii Karate Kenkyukai: December 5, 2010 - Ippon Kowashi and the Walk-in

The Hawaii Karate Kenkyukai met for training again on 5 December, 2010. The first half of the training was standard, with every school demonstrating a kata (or two) in the first round, followed by the same kata demonstrated in another round with a chance for everyone to ask questions. This was followed by an open discussion on fighting methodology, namely the concepts of ippon kowashi, or “destroying the opponent with one hit”, and how to close distance while fighting. The last portion of the training involved everyone pairing off with a partner to practice these above concepts using focus hand pads. Because I found the discussion interesting, most of this write-up will focus on a summary of the main points.

The first round of kata started off with OSKA performing Pinan Nidan, followed by the Roberts Sensei doing Heian Nidan and Ishida Sensei demonstrating Pinan Sono Ichi. In the writeup for the last session, I erroneously stated the Hayashi-ha Shito-Ryu Heian Nidan was equivalent to our Pinan Shodan. However, Roberts Sensei said what he performed in this session was the Heian Nidan (equivalent to our Pinan Nidan). This was interesting, as most schools that use the Heian name swap the order of the first two Pinan/Heian kata.

The next segment was OSKA doing Pinan Sandan, Roberts Sensei performing Heian Sandan, and Ishida Sensei doing Pinan Sono San. Afterwards, Lemus Sensei performed the Tokumine Bo and Lee Sensei did Gekisai Yon. It was explained that the Tokumine Bo was the style of Tokumine, who was quite the carouser, resulting in his exile to the island of Yaeyama. Chotoku Kyan went there to learn from him, but by that time Tokumine had already passed away. Instead, Kyan learned from the landlord or caretaker of the place where Tokumine lived, as this individual had learned the kata from Tokumine. The kata had a lot of scooping movements that scraped the ground, reminiscent of the Tsuken Sunakake eku (oar) kata wherein sand would be thrown into the opponent’s face. Another characteristic was the circular scooping that targeted the opponent’s leg, similar to the Shirotaro no Kon bo kata. Just like Gekisai San, Gekisai Yon was created by Izumikawa Sensei to increase the variety of kata for younger practitioners, especially for use in tournaments.

During the second round of performances, everyone was able to ask questions on the varying methodologies exhibited.

Following this, a discussion on fighting methodology was started, examining the concepts of ippon kowashi and how to close the distance between you and your opponent. Ippon kowashi means “destroying the opponent with one hit” and has parallels with the terms ichi geki hissatsu, or “one hit, one kill”. More than just the act of “trying to hit someone hard”, it is at once both a mindset and a realistic training goal, which is to generate such intense power in all techniques, whether a punch, kick, or block, that the opponent simply cannot withstand it. If an opponent strikes at you, your block should floor him. If he tries to block you, your punch should drive right through. If he tries to cover up and take your punch with his arm, his arm should break. These are fairly strong statements, ones which require total commitment and supreme confidence, and ones which many tend to view as unrealistic. However, if their potential is not acknowledged in the first place, if training is never structured with them in mind, how can they ever be realized? Achieving this requires an objective study of power generation and constant training towards this end.

When analyzing striking power and fighting methodology, there are often debates that crop up, such as “speed versus power”. Ippon kowashi requires you to be in close range to your opponent and would represent “power”. Yet in many cases, “speed” refers perhaps tangentially to how fast the hand is moving, but has more to do with how quickly you can get in and out of range to attack the opponent or disrupt his timing. In these cases, the issue actually being addressed is dealing with the distance between you and your opponent.

In sparring or sport fighting, there is a specific distance between two opponents, which is why you see “reach” listed as a personal stat before boxing or MMA matches. More important than just “reach” is someone’s range. You must know your range and judge the opponent's range. If you are in range, you hit. In sparring, you maneuver just outside of the opponent's range and set him up for a one step attack. In other words, the opponent needs to take a step to hit you. The moment he steps forward, you shoot your punch and will be successful in catching him almost all of the time. Sparring to a large extent is waiting, and the focus is not on absolute destruction of the opponent with one technique. One of the difficulties of waiting to time the opponent is just that, waiting. One can only maintain absolute concentration for a few seconds at a time and this strategy grants the initiative to the opponent. Furthermore, to distract themselves or the opponent, many choose to jump or bounce around, or to constantly bob and weave to present a difficult target. In these situations, timing the opponent can become tricker, especially if the opponent is purposely trying to throw your timing off.

In a real combat situation, however, there should be no setting up inside or outside of the opponent’s range, there should only be a walk-in. As the name implies, distance is closed by simply walking in, not too fast where control is lost, and not too slow where you can be easily timed. Your attack is executed as you walk in, but your method of attack is not decided before you begin. What is required instead is the firm decision to walk in, which prevents you from overthinking the situation. You accept whatever consequence may occur, whether it be complete success or total failure, and whatever the opponent gives you. Attack his arm if he punches and attack his legs if he kicks. If he covers up, remove whatever obstacle he presents and punch, strike or kick... or just destroy the obstacle with your hit. This is the tie-in with ippon kowashi. Without training for and achieving ippon kowashi, it is harder to develop the confidence to walk into and attack the opponent. And of course, it almost goes without saying that if you do successfully walk in, your chances of victory are far better when you can put your opponent away with one hit, since if he is in range, so are you. Fighting in this manner is not waiting for the opponent, it is taking control of the opponent and being active rather than reactive.

With this methodology, things such as speed or timing the opponent for an opening become irrelevant. When you are in control and enter into the opponent with the walk-in and destroy the opponent, sparring methods and pure speed are not needed. To fight in this way, one must train this way. Therefore execution of kata should demonstrate action and control rather than reaction. Every technique and the transition between them must be oriented towards entering the opponent and destroying him with one hit. The transition from movement to movement must involve pressing forward into the opponent with the entire body and body weight, which is the concept that we call osae, or press. While the walk-in does not technically require this press, it further enhances control of the situation. However, when all of this is missing from training, especially in kata, the training becomes reactive and we condition ourselves to lose the initiative and give up control of the fight. With this kind of reactive mindset, it becomes that much harder to walk in to the opponent and achieve ippon kowashi. Again, to train for the walk-in and ippon kowashi, intense concentration must be given to each technique and the transitions between them.

Since the study of fighting is best done through training rather than words, we then partnered up with focus pads and practiced walking in from several steps away and then hitting without “setting” or pausing first. Focus pads can be more useful than hitting makiwara or heavy bags since the feel of it lets you know if you are pushing/muscling through the hit, making contact incorrectly, or other deficiencies in form that might be masked otherwise. We practiced both a punch and a uraken, or back fist. True to our discussion, we aimed to use the backfist not as a glancing or jabbing strike, but as a powerful blow to end the confrontation. Partnering up allowed us to view both the similar and different ways that everyone employed body weight and focus during these techniques.

Upon conclusion of our training, we all partook of some Hanapa’a Sushi graciously provided by Grant Kawasaki and talked story for a little while. Like always, I felt privileged to take part in the Kenkyukai training.

In attendance:

Herb Ishida Sensei (representing Bobby Lowe Sensei, Kyokushin Karate)

Pat Nakata Sensei (OSKA [Okinawa Shorin Ryu Karate Association]), Alan Yokota (Ryukyu Kobudo Hozon Shinkokai Hawaii), Steve Chun, John Oberle, and Grant Kawasaki.

Alan Lee Sensei (Hawaii Senbukan Dojo, Goju Ryu)

Angel Lemus Sensei (Ninchokan Dojo, Zentokukai)

Sean Roberts Sensei (Minakami Karate Dojo, Minakami-ha Shito-Ryu)

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Thursday, November 04, 2010

Hawaii Karate Kenkyukai: October 31, 2010

The Hawaii Karate Kenkyukai held its most recent training session on 31 October, 2010. Sensei Alan Lee / Hawaii Senbukan hosted this session at the Kotohira Jinsha.

A familiar format was observed, with every school demonstrating a kata in the first round, followed by the same kata demonstrated in another round with a chance for everyone to ask questions, and closing with each school sharing an application from their kata to be practiced with a partner.

Five of the schools did their version of Pinan Shodan, with variations in the kata name as well, reflecting the various lineages of the styles. Our OSKA group under Pat Nakata Sensei started off with the Chibana Shorin-ryu Pinan Shodan, followed by Charles Goodin Sensei performing the Kishaba Juku version of Pinan Shodan. This was then followed by Herbert Ishida Sensei performing the Kyokushin Pinan Sono Ni, succeeded by Sean Roberts Sensei doing the Hayashi-ha Shito-ryu Heian Nidan and Hisae Ishii-Chang Sensei with the Kenneth Funakoshi Shotokan Heian Nidan.

It was explained that Ankoh Itosu Sensei created the Pinan Shodan kata for the Okinawan school system in the early 1900s as a simplified version of Kusanku, which would be easier for the schoolchildren to learn both in terms of kata length and the literal duration of the physical education classes. While there was initially meant to be only one Pinan kata, Itosu Sensei created four more in successive years to give returning students more kata to practice. Funakoshi Sensei renamed the Pinan Kata to Heian, a change which carried over into schools which had ties to Shotokan. In addition, because Pinan/Heian Shodan was viewed as more complex than the Nidan kata, Funakoshi Sensei switched the teaching order, which is why the Heian Nidan kata is equivalent to the Pinan Shodan kata. Interestingly enough, Kyokushin calls this set of kata Pinan rather than Heian, although they still retain the switched order of kata, which is why Ishida Sensei performed the Pinan Sono Ni kata.

Because the remaining two schools do not perform the Pinan/Heian kata, Alan Lee Sensei’s group did the Gekisai San kata and Angel Lemus Sensei and his wife Judy did Wanchin. Lee Sensei informed us Gekisai San was created by Izumikawa Sensei to increase the variety of kata for younger practitioners, especially for use in tournaments. It includes techniques from Gekisai Ichi and Ni in addition to other sequences. Lemus Sensei stated the Wanchin kata was created by Zenryo Shimabukuro to commemorate the opening of his dojo in 1962. The name was derived from a combination of Wansu and Chinto, which formed the basis of the kata.

During the application portion of our training, it was interesting to note how the distance from the opponent at which a technique would be executed would differ from school to school, even if the movements were similar. This affected the meaning of not only that technique, but the subsequent one as well. For example, in our school, a shuto uke (knife hand block) that strikes the opponent’s upper punching arm requires close distance, thus stepping forward, crowding the opponent, and executing another shuto uke would be more akin to striking the opponent and/or knocking him out of the way. On the other hand, some schools use a shuto uke that strikes at an opponent’s punching arm at the wrist, thus requiring greater separation between you and your opponent. Therefore stepping forward with a shuto uke would be aimed further up the opponent’s other (or same) arm as he punches again and be a means of closing distance.

I am grateful to continually witness the earnest sharing of karate of many schools by instructors who truly consider each other friends. The focus on training is what makes these sessions embody what is meant by “the study of karate”.

In attendance:

Herb Ishida Sensei (representing Bobby Lowe Sensei, Kyokushin Karate)

Pat Nakata Sensei (OSKA [Okinawa Shorin Ryu Karate Association]), Alan Yokota (Ryukyu Kobudo Hozon Shinkokai Hawaii), Roy Rivera, Steve Chun, John Oberle, and Grant Kawasaki.

Alan Lee Sensei (Hawaii Senbukan Dojo, Goju Ryu) with Garrett Miyagawa and Corey Shimabukuro.

G. Hiase Ishii-Chang (Island Ki, Kenneth Funakoshi Shotokan Karate)

Charles Goodin Sensei (Hikari Dojo, Okinawa Shorin-Ryu Kishaba Juku)

Angel Lemus Sensei (Ninchokan Dojo, Zentokukai) with Judy Lemus

Sean Roberts Sensei (Minakami Karate Dojo, Minakami-ha Shito-Ryu)

Observing were Rodney Shimabukuro Sensei, Carl Kinoshita, and Clyde Kinoshita

Monday, August 30, 2010

Hawaii Karate Kenkyukai: August 22, 2010

The following is a writeup by Pat Nakata Sensei on our most recent Kenkyukai training session held on August 22, 2010.

Again, the Hawaii Karate Kenkyukai session was a very good and interesting session. We selected everyone's most advanced Kata in their Kata curriculum, with Ryukyu Kobudo Hozon Shinkokai performing Kanegawa no Nichogama, Herbert Ishida Sensei's presentation of the Kyokushin Karate Kanku, OSKA presenting the Chibana Shorin-ryu Chinto, Alan Lee Sensei and Kyle Nakasone Sensei demonstrating their Goju-ryu Karate Suparinpei, Hisae Ishii-Chang Sensei showing the Kenneth Funakoshi Shotokan Karate Unsu, Charles Goodin Sensei doing the Kishaba Juku Fukyugata Ichi, Angel Lemus Sensei showing his Zentokukai Yara Kusanku, and Sean Roberts Sensei executing the Minakami Karate Seiunchin. The discussion on the various Kata was very informative and interesting. The application practice was fun as usual.

For the October session, we will be presenting our renditions of Pinan Shodan (Kyokushin Karate Pinan Sono Ni, Heian Nidan), and because Zentokukai does not have any Pinan Kata, Lemus Sensei will be asked to perform their Wanchin Kata. Unfortunately, Alan Lee Sensei and Kyle Nakasone Sensei will not be able to attend the October session. Lee Sensei will try to have a representative perform the Senbukan Gekisai Sandan.

We have found that it would be far more beneficial for everyone to perform their versions of the same Kata, if possible.

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Hawaii Karate Kenkyukai: April 11, 2010

The following is a short write-up by Pat Nakata Sensei on our most recent Hawaii Karate Kenkyukai meeting held on 11 April 2010.

This session was very interesting and fun. Sean Roberts Sensei started by performing the Rohai Kata. We were expecting him to do the (Itosu) Rohai Shodan, but instead, he performed the Tomari Rohai, which is the classical Rohai. Anko Itosu Sensei created three Rohai kata (Rohai Shodan, Nidan, and Sandan) from the Tomari Rohai. Hisae Ishii-Chang Sensei was to have performed the Meikyo Kata, which is a Shotokan Kata that was created by Gichin Funakoshi or his son Giko, or possibly both. Meikyo is a combination of the Itosu Rohai Nidan and Sandan. Unfortunately, Hisae Sensei was not able to attend. Charles Goodin Sensei performed the Matsubayashi (Tomari) Rohai.

Angel Lemus Sensei performed the Chikina no Tunfa (Tuifa, Tunkua), followed by Alan Yokota, Roy Rivera, John Oberle and myself performing the Hamahiga Tonfa (Tonfa or Tounfa in the Shuri dialect). Alan Lee Sensei, Kyle Nakasone, and Garrett Miyagawa performed their version of the Hamahiga Tunfua.

Herbert Ishida Sensei finished Round 1 by performing Sokugi Taikyoku Sono Ichi.

Round 2 followed the same format, but with discussions after each presentation. First again was Roberts Sensei with his Tomari Rohai. Goodin Sensei asked Gerry Tsuda to perform their Rohai and he followed by performing and explaining their moves. After discussing the Tomari Rohai, Alan Yokota and I decided to perform the Itosu Rohai Shodan, although our OSKA / RKHS no longer practice this Kata.

Lemus Sensei followed with explanations of the unique Chikina Tunfa. Our Ryukyu Kobudo Hozon Shinkokai (RKHS) followed with a presentation and explanation of our Hamahiga Tonfa. Alan Lee Sensei, Kyle Nakasone, and Garrett Miyagawa presented and explained their Hamahiga Tunfua, which is a little different from the conventional Hamahiga Tunfua.

Herbert Ishida Sensei again finished the round with Kosugi Taikyoku Sono Ni.

After a 5 minute break which gave everyone an opportunity to compare notes, Herbert Ishida Sensei led everyone through the Kosugi Taikyoku Sono Ni. After 15 minutes everyone partnered up to practice kicking with their toes. After about 10 minutes, it was Lemus Sensei's turn. He had everyone practicing an unconventional Tunfa flip out strike that goes 360 degrees. It seems everyone was having fun, especially the people who are more used to the conventional methods.

Lee Sensei and I followed with our more conventional Tunfa basics.

The session was educational and interesting as always, but this session was fun.

The participants were: Sean Roberts Sensei, Charles Goodin Sensei, Jerry Tsuda, Angel Lemus Sensei, Judy Lemus, Alan Yokota, Pat Nakata, Roy Rivera, John Oberle, Jay Paige, Alan Lee Sensei, Kyle Nakasone, Garrett Miyagawa, and Herbert Ishida Sensei.
Observing were Rodney Shimabukuro Sensei, Carl Kinoshita, and George Drago.

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Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Hawaii Karate Kenkyukai: February 28, 2010

The Hawaii Karate Kenkyukai held its most recent meeting on Sunday, 28 February, 2010. As always, it was an enjoyable opportunity to learn about and share traditional karate with each other. The session followed our usual pattern of three rounds of kata study. The first round was a demonstration of kata, followed by another round of demonstration, but with a question and answer session after each kata. The third round consisted of each instructor explaining an application from the kata they performed and then a few minutes for everyone to practice the technique.

This time we studied four kata: Anan, Gojushiho, Saifa, and Kanegawa no Timbei.

Starting us all off, Sean Roberts Sensei performed Anan. This kata most likely came into Shito Ryu from Ryuei Ryu and Roberts Sensei emphasized the more circular movements within the kata and some of the crane-style strikes and blocks.

Following this, the Gojushiho kata was performed by Charles Goodin Sensei, Angel Lemus Sensei and his wife Judy, and Hisae Ishii-Chang Sensei. Gojushiho was explained as being more of a Naha-style kata in derivation and not technically a “core” Shuri-te kata, although many Shorin schools do perform this kata since Sokon Matsumura taught his version of it. It was this version that was performed by each of the instructors mentioned above. The Naha/Chinese roots can not only be seen from the actual movements themselves, but also the name itself, as “Gojushiho” means “fifty-four”. Nakata Sensei explained that his instructor, Chibana Chosin Sensei, stated that all “number” kata were Naha kata of Chinese origin. The Shotokan Gojushiho Sho appears to be a variant of the Itosu Gojushiho, while their Gojushiho Dai is the more prevalent Matsumura Gojushiho. One of the easiest ways to distinguish the Itosu version from the Gojushiho version is that one of the earlier sequences contains two punches, a kick, and then another punch. If the foot steps back after the kick, it is the Matsumura version. If it steps forward, it is the Itosu version.

Next, Alan Lee Sensei and his student Kyle Nakasone Sensei performed the kata Saifa, followed by Herb Ishida Sensei, who was representing Bobby Lowe Sensei. While not a “number” kata, this kata does have Chinese origins, having been brought back by Kanryo Higaonna. The kata included a lot of grabbing, ripping, and tearing, the name itself meaning “smash and tear”.

Lastly, Pat Nakata Sensei performed Kanegawa no Timbei, being joined by Alan Yokota, Roy Rivera, Steve Chun, and myself. He explained that this weapons kata came more from the farmer/peasant class and that the classical items used were the large Chinese straw hats (timbei) or pot covers as a sort of shield coupled with a small stick called a hira, which was essentially a potato digger. If there is metal and/or blades involved, the weapon is called a rochin. Due to these weapons’ relatively flimsy natures compared to a sharp katana, the kata focuses more on deception, timing, and masking of the weapon while moving and striking in order to defeat the opponent.

During the application round, everyone partnered up to practice techniques present in the kata just performed. Unfortunately, Roberts Sensei had to leave early to teach a class. Lee Sensei, Lemus Sensei, and Ishida Sensei each explained techniques based around escapes from a grab, while Nakata Sensei explained some of the concepts involved in elbow strikes. These included the use of the opposite hand to pull an opponent inwards rather than overextending and the difference between a forearm smash versus hitting with the elbow.

After the conclusion of the session, there was some discussion about footwork and how it affects moving with body weight and power generation. Like always, it was very refreshing to see individuals from different styles meeting together in the spirit of openness and learning in order to help everyone grow as practitioners of karate.

In attendance:

Herb Ishida Sensei (representing Bobby Lowe Sensei, Kyokushin Karate)

Pat Nakata Sensei (Okinawa Shorin Ryu Karate Association Hawaii, Ryukyu Kobudo Hozon Shinkokai Hawaii) with Alan Yokota, Roy Rivera, Steve Chun, and John Oberle

Alan Lee Sensei (Hawaii Senbukan Goju Ryu) with Kyle Nakasone Sensei

G. Hiase Ishi-Chang (Island Ki Shotokan Karate) with Dr. Leo Maher

Charles Goodin Sensei (Hikari Dojo, Okinawa Shorin-Ryu Kishaba Juku)

Angel Lemus Sensei (Ninchokan Dojo, Zentokukuai of Hawaii, Sukunaihayashi Shorin Ryu) with Judy Lemus

Sean Roberts Sensei (Minakami Karate Dojo, Minakami-ha Shito-Ryu)

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