Thursday, April 21, 2011

Special Kenkyukai Session: Pat Nakata Sensei Teaching Sai Basics

On March 16, 2011, my instructor Pat Nakata Sensei was invited to teach a class on sai basics at the Halawa District Park Gym during Charles Goodin Sensei's karate class. This was a continuation of our “training abroad” due to our dojo being refloored at the time. Just like the takedown session with Angel Lemus Sensei, this was not considered one of our usual Kenkyukai training sessions held once every two months, but it was open to all Hawaii Kenkyukai members.

Nakata Sensei heads the Okinawa Shorin Ryu Karate Association (OSKA) in Hawaii, teaching the Shorin Ryu karate he learned from Chibana Chosin Sensei. He also teaches the Ryukyu Kobudo he learned from Fumio Nagaishi Sensei (Ryukyu Kobudo Hozon Shinkokai Hawaii) and the kobudo he learned from Kyan Shinei Sensei, through Nagaishi Sensei.

The skill and sai familiarity level of all the participants was varied during this session. Along with Goodin Sensei’s students, there was George Drago, Alan Lee Sensei with two of his students, and from our OSKA group there was Alan Yokota, Roy Rivera, Harold Hamada, Grant Kawasaki, and myself. After a brief introduction, Nakata Sensei began running the class through the sai no kihon keiko, or “sai basic practice”. This was part of the curriculum he learned from Kyan Shinei Sensei, who learned the bo and sai from Kina Shosei Sensei. Kina Sensei in turn was a student of Kanagusuku Sanda “Ufuchiku” Sensei.

The basics are composed of various single and double strikes, alternating left and right hands, with and without stepping. Nakata Sensei started off by having everyone follow along for a few sets of techniques, then allowed for a short break, after which everyone followed along for the same techniques again with a few more added in. This pattern continued until before we all knew it, the entire class was fairly familiar with the sai basics, which consists of 20 different sets. The breaks were welcome not only because they enabled everyone to let things “sink in”, but also because that much sai work is a pretty hefty workout, even for those of us that are used to doing them. From what Nakata Sensei says, Kyan Sensei was a big proponent of conditioning and basics, which is exactly what this kind of training offers.

An interesting item to note is that in the Kyan (or Ufuchiku) methodology, when the sai is in the “chamber” position, the fist is held with the palm of the hand perpendicular rather than parallel to the ground like in karate or in Ryukyu Kobudo. In addition, the tsukagashira (head of the handle) of the rear chambered sai points straight towards the tsukagashira of the front sai.

One of the more difficult basics to perform is the kiri uchi, or “cutting strike”. The Kyan sai basics only contained gedan versions of this technique (lower cutting strikes), but since kiri uchi is so prevalent in the actual Kyan sai kata, Nakata Sensei added mae (front) and naname (diagonal) kiri uchi to the basics. The mae no kiri uchi involves starting with the sai in the “reverse” position (blade along the length of the forearm). As the hand moves forward, the yoko (prongs) of the sai are parallel to the ground. Even as the sai is flipped from the reverse position to the forward position, the yoko remain parallel to the ground, causing a cutting arc similar to that of a sword draw. Care must be taken to avoid the bad habit of letting the sai “dangle” downwards during the flip, and timing and wrist usage is vital for power generation.

At the end of the class, Goodin Sensei asked if we could perform a sai kata for everyone, so Nakata Sensei, Alan Yokota, Roy Rivera and I performed the Kyan Sai no Kata Sho and the Kyan Sai no Kata Dai. The Sai no Kata Sho is a fairly long and repetitive kata, which fits in nicely with the idea of basics and conditioning. The Kyan Sai no Kata Dai is also known as the Ufuchiku kata.

From what I saw during and after the class, it was easy to tell that everyone had an enjoyable time training hard and learning something new. We are grateful to Goodin Sensei for allowing us to train at his dojo and Nakata Sensei for sharing his knowledge and experience.

The following schools/individuals were in attendance:

OSKA (Okinawa Shorin Ryu Association Hawaii, Pat Nakata Sensei)
Hawaii Senbukan (Goju Ryu, Alan Lee Sensei)
Hikari Dojo (Okinawa Shorin Ryu Kishaba Juku, Charles Goodin Sensei)
George Drago (Aikenkai Shotokan Karate Association)

Rodney Shimabukuro Sensei

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