Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Special Kenkyukai Session: Angel Lemus Sensei Teaching Takedowns

On March 14, 2011, Angel Lemus Sensei was invited to teach a class on takedowns at the Halawa District Park Gym during Charles Goodin Sensei's karate class. This was fortunate timing, as our dojo was being refloored and we found ourselves without our normal training location. While this was not considered one of our usual Kenkyukai training sessions held once every two months, it was a training event that all Hawaii Kenkyukai members were invited to attend.

Angel Lemus Sensei is a member of the Board of Directors for the Okinawa Shorinjiryu Toude Zentokukai, a traditional Okinawan style with roots in the karate of Kyan Chotoku Sensei and Shimabuku Zenryo Sensei. He currently runs the Ninchokan Dojo every Monday and Thursday on Coconut Island and we have enjoyed his participation in the Hawaii Karate Kenkyukai for a couple of years now.

After Goodin Sensei led everyone in a warmup consisting of stretching and several executions of their first two Naihanchi kata, Lemus Sensei began his seminar. The general theme was initiating takedowns after blocking an opponent's attack. As such, Lemus Sensei demonstrated several variations of takedowns (Cael Goodin graciously agreed to be the uke), explaining the techniques, and allowing time for everyone to split up into partners to practice the sequences. Because there were many techniques and my vocabulary in describing them is limited, I will instead list just some of the principles that Lemus Sensei explained:

1. It is always easier to hit the opponent first before attempting to grapple.
This principle seems fairly self-explanatory; either you transition immediately to a grapple after executing a block or strike that does not put the opponent away or you intend from the beginning to use the block or strike as an effective distraction in order to initiate grappling effectively. This means you must be close to your opponent, so you can not back away or try and keep distance as the opponent attacks.

2. Stances must be strong and utilized.
When engaged with the opponent in close range, the legs can be utilized to disrupt the opponent's balance (kicking or applying weight, or both), to stomp on his feet so her cannot escape, or to set up the conditions for a lock. If a stance is floating with no real foundation, it can not perform these functions. Furthermore, during the conduct of the throw itself, one must be conscious of the stance in order to utilize it to deal with the weight of the individual.

3. Never force a technique.
When your attempts to execute a technique fail, don't get too absorbed in trying to make the technique work. Sometimes flowing on to another technique or hitting the opponent again just might do the trick in order to culminate with a takedown.

4. Some useful tips.
When blocking, if you control the opponent's elbow, it makes it harder for him to hit you when you grapple.
Aiming to hit the elbow while blocking can make the block more effective.
During a takedown, if you control the head, it can prevent him from turning out from a technique or attacking you.
Don't be afraid to slam an opponent's head into the ground during a takedown if the situation warrants it.
There is no such thing as "fighting dirty", so use all targets of opportunity.
When practicing takedowns, it is important for the attacker to execute a proper attack with proper range so that the defender can reasonably expect to get hit if nothing is done.

Lemus Sensei concluded with a brief demonstration on various flow drills meant to teach transition from one lock/takedown to another. These incorporated several of the principles that he had discussed.

In addition to Lemus Sensei representing the Ninchokan Dojo and acting as the lead for the training session, the following schools were in attendance with their students:

OSKA (Okinawa Shorin Ryu Karate Association, Pat Nakata Sensei)
Hikari Dojo (Okinawa Shorin Ryu Kishaba Juku, Charles Goodin Sensei)

Also observing:
Aikenkai Shotokan Karate Association (Shotokan Karate, George Sasano Sensei)
Island Ki (Shotokan Karate, G. Hisae Ishii-Chang Sensei)
Rodney Shimabukuro Sensei
George Drago Sensei
Gary Miyashiro
A guest from Japan

We are thankful for Lemus Sensei volunteering to teach this special session. Those of us students in OSKA who were present (Alan Yokota, Steve Chun, Harold Hamada, Grant Kawasaki, Phil Gevas, and myself) were grateful to have a place to train for the evening and it was interesting to see things from a different perspective. I believe my teacher put it best in his statement: "I think it was a good experience for our OSKA students. As you know, we only concentrate on walk-in, Osae, and hitting. Thank you."

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