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Pennsylvania Visit - 2002
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Notes from Yamakura Shihan’s visit September 22-26, 2002

 

Questions answered

·       Are visitors welcome to observe training sessions?  Yes

·       A history question: was Mr Tada a student of Mr Miyagi or Mr Yamaguchi?  It’s much more complicated.  In Okinawa, Mr. Higaonna taught Mr Miyagi  who taught Mr Yamaguchi.  The latter brought Okinawan goju to Japan.  There at University in Kyoto, Mr Tada was teaching (having come from China) and followed Mr Yamaguchi’s style.  Much more to this. 

·       What is the proper salutation for Mr Yamakura?  It’s no big deal, anything will do.  Sensei just means “teacher” (could be a gym teacher), “Shihan” is a little higher level, and seems to be the term that most of the GKK uses.  Renshi (service), Kiyoshi (teaching), and Hanshi (highest level) are karate-specific honorary terms that may be used. 

Notes on teaching/basics

·       Warmup with stretching and strengthening is important.

·       Start basics with stances — connect to the ground. Need to correct stances and technique before brown belt.  Use Saifa to check basics.

·       Sanchin wide for stability; knees angled inward to protect groin.  moving in sanchin, start with one direction, then forward/back on command

·       riken — return position is close to eyes

·       Zen kutso dachi have the back foot angled 45 deg, for stability, after the student understands the squaring of the chest.  front foot slightly angled in. 

·       When teaching basics, start slow with a set pattern (right, left, right, left…) then go faster, then ask students to respond to variable commands.  start with a single block/strike, then go to all three targets on one call.  

·       Good strengthening and basics exercise;  two lines face each other.  First, they do the “arm scrape”, each side, then the yoko uke.  Then one line moves and they do it again. 

·       Mawashi Uke – Comments after Monday’s class with green/brown belts

¨     Outside hand should be further away than inside hand.  This is like fighting stance where the top hand protects a chest level sphere and the bottom hand protects a stomach level sphere.

¨     Practice closed hand jogi uke first.  Then practice using open hands (top hand does kake uke, bottom hand blocks lower/center area with palm down).

¨     Green/brown belts during Monday’s class were doing mawashi uke very inconsistently.  We need to perform and teach it more consistently.

·       When teaching kata, there is always the balance between fluidity and articulation.  How many moves to break down each section of the kata depends on where the student is — if she needs more fluidity, do it as a whole, if he needs more articulation, break it down into more pieces. 

·       Bunkai means taking apart & putting back together, analysis, deconstruction.  Ask students to figure out and reflect upon bunkai.  There is no “right way”. 

·       What about other styles?  Is it OK to teach them as part of goju?  Goju itself incorporates other styles, in particular, both the Northern (soft, circular) and Southern (hard, angular) styles from China.  Kata in goju may be performed and taught at many different speeds and hardness; to emphasize the “ju”, a kata may be performed slowly and smoothly with the body soft.  Also, one may teach another style, like tai chi chuan for emphasizing the ju, so long as it doesn’t confuse the student. 

·       Finish class with tensho, kaishu kata. 

Notes on One-steps — yakusoku kumite

·       The focus and emphasis should be on:

¨     reaction and timing

¨     distance

¨     target area

·       Don’t focus too much on:

¨     precise stance

¨     correct punching/blocking technique

·       There can be a difference between how we teach one-steps and how we execute them.  We need to teach it consistently.

·       Chudan Part 5:  Shihan teaches a reinforcing block but he executes a trapping block.

·       Chudan Part 6:  Shihan teaches a LH scooping up block against opponent’s RH while RH does a press down block against the air.  Somethimes, however, he personally uses the RH to trap the opponent’s RH.

·       Chudan Part 6:  In response to Bruce’s question, don’t teach a push/pull to the block.  If you execute a push/pull, Shihan will close one eye and pretend he doesn’t see it.

·       Chudan Part 6:  sink into low neko achi dachi and scoop opponent’s arm up with LH.  The combinination of a low stance and higher block gives more space to kick.

·       Chudan Part 4:  Rotate opponent’s wrist clockwise to expose under side of arm/elbow.  If opponent is smaller, the application is a break.  If the opponent is larger, bend the elbow into a take down.

 

Notes on kata and technique — general

·       Get your stances down precisely first.  don’t cut techniques short.

·       Importance of separation: doing parts of the kata at different speeds is just as important as doing different techniques. 

·       Finish one move before moving on to the next.  Articulate every move. 

·       Breathing is crucial.  Exhale longer than inhale.  Conscious breathing (ibuke) helps to slow down the parts that need to be slow

·       Pay attention to bunkai: think about and get clear on what you are trying to do, and what the opponent is doing.

·       Ki exercise.  Hold the tree, bend the knees, breathe in breathe out.  Ten minutes, things will change, heaving stomach.

·       when teaching kata, use different groupings: individual, 2-4, all.  start each kata with a slow, easy one, then to full kata speed/intensity. 

Notes on kata and technique — specific

Gekisai ichi & ni

·       first two punches are jodan, not eye level.  This is a Southern style kata, very angular and hard

·       make sure stances and chambers are proper

·       On last step, slide feet to transition from right to left zen kutso dachi.  Don’t hop.  (Many of the green/brown belts were hopping on Wednesday night.)

Saifa

·       This is an important kata, the first that fully demonstrates separation.

·       In general, people are blurring the transition between moves. Make sure you finish one move before starting the next (e.g. pull completely back into chamber after double block; finish double punch and briefly pause before continuing into hammer fist strike — one fist over knee, not centered).

·        Proper stances are very important. In first three moves, need to check musubi dachi stance. Re no ji dachi stance needs to be improved (front foot points in direction of stance, back foot is 45 degree angle)

·       In first three moves, after riken strike, pull back only to vertical position

·       use a 3-count for the first sequence; first fluid/soft, 2/3 fast and hard. In the first three moves, finish downward/sideways hidden punch before starting to move into shikodachi.  Don’t shift weight before hidden punch completes.

·       on the crane stance double block, upper hand should be at shoulder, not visible from back. Practice holding crane stance as long as possible, it should be more stable. 

·       At the second to last step (after the LH chest punch), don’t twist and stop.  This is not a separate move.  It is one move.  Twist behind, LF steps across, pivot into right nekoashi dachi, hands pull back into left side (right hand on top by patch, left hand at belt).  Last block, half (not full) mawashi uke

·       The final Neko achi dachi should be lower.  This is a finishing, closing stance.

Seiunchin

·       The focus of Seiunchin is on shiko dachi stance and embusen (angle of movement).  In this kata, separation is crucial, as well as precision in angles.  Mr Y reviewed exactly where you are going slow and where you are going fast. 

·       Brown belts do not have stances that are established.  Need to hold them back if they don’t understand.  Seiunchin should be performed consistently.  It is not open to individual interpretation.

·       drill senior students first facing front, then @ 45 deg angle

·       stay low, don’t bob up and down.  On sliding steps… slide foot forward.  Don’t hop.

·       first section slow and hard.  On first three moves, the double hand press block should only go as low as belt level. The application is to block on knee strike.  Don’t change the kata for the application.  On first three moves during grab and nukite, the pulling hand should pull all the way back so the thumb touches the body.

·       On the elbow strike in half zen, the elbow goes straight back.  Don’t drop the elbow down.

Sanseiru

·       Shihan went through bunkai for most of the moves.

·       The focus of Sanseiru is a straight forward attack.

·       first sequence slow and hard, like sanchin kata.

·       In the double block for the last step, both hands should be approximately the same vertical height.  If you  rotated your waist to front/center, both hands should be equal distant and symetrical to your body.

·       NOTE:  don’t drop hand for elbow strike — many of us do this.  Elbow strike is short.  It won’t have the power of a punch.  If you have enough time/space for a punch then you should punch.

Shisochin

·       The focus of Shisoshin is on hip rotation, circular movement, and the four pushes.

·       On step 5 (scoop with both hands), one application is both hands grab lapel; pull down/out, head butt to nose/chin

·       On step 7 during the application to bend opponent’s elbow, LH should rotate opponent’s right wrist clockwise to expose elbow joint for bend.

·       NOTE:  as in sanseiru, don’t drop hand for elbow strike.

·       double blocks should be slow, followed by hard arm break driven by hip, not arm.

·       4-direction pushes should be slow and strong with hard breathing

Sanchin

·       Willpower and spirit is one of the keys to Sanchin.  It should come across as:  I can do it; I am ready for you; I can take your punch.

·       Exhale is more important than inhale (exhale should be longer and inhale shorter)

·       Tightening the stomach is important.  Loud exaggerated breathing is not important.

·       drill— move up and down the floor, at commands of instructor: mawate, 2  hands/nukite, mawashi uke

·       testing, first static: front, side, shoulders, back (tap first, then hit not too hard); then dynamic on hajime.  do this in pairs, alternating tester and testee

Tensho

·       The focus and emphasis should be on:

Ø      Finger tips

Ø      Palm heel

Ø      Tension in the abdomen (breathe low)

Ø      Rotating wrists/palms

·       The area of control is out in front a couple of feet, not close to the body. Keep in mind the center area you are protecting.  The blocks shouldn’t go all over the place.

·       Internally, the breathing and abdomen should be strong like Sanchin Kata, all the way through.  The blocks/strikes, however, are softer and not as hard.

·       relax shoulders as the palm turns

Seipai

·       The focus of Seipai is on the variation of techniques.

·       On arm break move, another application is to grab opponent’s right wrist with your own right hand; rotate so elbow is joint is exposed; LF step toward opponent, left arm (ridge hand) strikes up and breaks elbow.

·       On second step, just clasp hands together in front of body with arms extended (don’t pull in and push out).  On third step, pull in, push out, and rotate hands.

·       On re no ji dachi push step… lead with hip.

·       downward double punch — from full chamber to all the way down

Seisan

·       On three eye strikes:  the fingers strike eyes, the thumb joint strikes middle of nose (can’t stop bleeding if you hit there); the palm-heel strikes chin.

Kururunfa

·       For many of us, the first time working on this one!

·       The first step is like putting the left arm in fighting position.  The application for the right arm is a scooping block.

·       On the last couple of steps with scooping blocks… the application is trapping a kick and striking either groin (if opponent is shorter and you can reach groin) or striking thigh/knee area to take down opponent (if opponent is taller and you can’t reach groin).

Suparunpai

·       Don’t pause between kake uke and first mae geri.  Kick as soon as block completes.

 

 

Karate Notes – Friday, September 27, 2002

 

THESE NOTES SUPPLEMENT OR CORRECT THE KATA DESCRIPTIONS THAT WERE UPDATED AFTER THE JUNE 2001 SESSION IN TULSA

Gekisai Ichi

·         On last step, slide feet to transition from right to left zen kutso dachi.  Don’t hop.  (Many of the green/brown belts were hopping on Wednesday night.)

Saifa

·         In general, most people are blurring the transition between moves. Make sure you finish one move before starting the next (e.g. pull completely back into chamber after double block; finish double punch and briefly pause before continuing into hammer fist strike over knee).

·         In the first three moves, finish downward/sideways hidden punch before starting to move into shikodachi.  Don’t shift weight before hidden punch completes.

·         At the second to last step (after the LH chest punch), don’t twist and stop.  This is not a separate move.  It is one move.  Twist behind, LF steps across, pivot into right nekoashi dachi, hands pull back into left side (right hand on top).

·         Practice holding crane stance as long as possible.

Seiunchin

·         The focus of Seiunchin is on shiko dachi stance and embusen (angle of movement)

·         Brown belts do not have stances that are established.  Need to hold them back if they don’t understand.  Seiunchin should be performed consistently.  It is not open to individual interpretation.

·         On first three moves, the double hand block should only go as low as belt level (don’t go below belt level).  The application is to block on knee strike.  Don’t change the kata for the application.

·         On first three moves during grab and nukite, the pulling hand should pull all the way back so the thumb touches the body.

·         On the elbow strike in half zen, the elbow goes straight back.  Don’t drop the elbow down.

·         On sliding steps… slide foot forward.  Don’t hop.

Sanchin

·         Willpower and spirit is one of the keys to Sanchin.  It should come across as:  I can do it; I am ready for you; I can take your punch.

·         Exhale is more important than inhale (exhale should be longer and inhale shorter)

·         Tightening the stomach is important.  Loud exaggerated breathing is not important.

Tensho

·         The focus and emphasis should be on:

Ø       Finger tips

Ø       Palm heel

Ø       Tension in the abdomen (breathe low)

Ø       Rotating wrists/palms

·         Keep in mind the center area you are protecting.  The blocks shouldn’t go all over the place.

·         Internally, the breathing and abdomen should be strong like Sanchin Kata.  The blocks/strikes, however, are softer and not as hard.

Sanseiru

·         The focus of Sanseiru is a straight forward attack.

·         In the double block for the last step, both hands should be approximately the same vertical height.  If you  rotated your waist to front/center, both hands should be equal distant and symmetrical to your body.

·         NOTE:  don’t drop hand for elbow strike.  Elbow strike is short.  It won’t have the power of a punch.  If you have enough time/space for a punch then you should punch.

Shisochin

·         The focus of Shisoshin is on hip rotation, circular movement, and the four pushes.

·         On step 5 (scoop with both hands), one application is both hands grab lapel; pull down/out, head butt to nose/chin

·         On step 7 during the application to bend opponent’s elbow, LH should rotate opponent’s write wrist clockwise to expose elbow joint for bend.

·         NOTE:  don’t drop hand for elbow strike.

Seipai

·         The focus of Seipai is on the variation of techniques.

·         On arm break move, another application is to grab opponent’s right wrist with your own right hand; rotate so elbow is joint is exposed; LF step toward opponent, left arm (ridge hand) strikes up and breaks elbow.

·         On second step, just clasp hands together in front of body with arms extended (don’t pull in and push out).  On third step, pull in, push out, and rotate hands.

·         On re no ji dachi push step… lead with hip.

Seisan

·         On three eye strikes:  the fingers strike eyes, the thumb joint strikes middle of nose (can’t stop bleeding if you hit there); the palm-heel strikes chin.

Kururunfa

·         The first step is like putting the left arm in fighting position.  The application for the right arm is a scooping block.

·         On the last couple of steps with scooping blocks… the application is trapping a kick and striking either groin (if opponent is shorter and you can reach groin) or striking thigh/knee area to take down opponent (if opponent is taller and you can’t reach groin).

Suparunpai

·         Don’t pause between kake uke and first mae geri.  Kick as soon as block completes.

One Steps

·         The focus and emphasis should be on:

Ø       reaction and timing

Ø       distance

Ø       target area

·         Don’t focus too much on:

Ø       precise stance

Ø       correct punching/blocking technique

·         There can be a difference between how we teach one-steps and how we execute them.  We need to teach it consistently.

Ø       Chudan Part 5:  Shihan teaches a reinforcing block but he executes a trapping block.

Ø       Chudan Part 6:  Shihan teaches a LH scooping up block against opponent’s RH while RH does a press down block against the air.  Sometimes, however, he personally uses the RH to trap the opponent’s RH.

Ø       Chudan Part 6:  In response to Bruce’s question, don’t teach a push/pull to the block.  If you execute a push/pull, Shihan will close one eye and pretend he doesn’t see it.

·         Chudan Part 4:  Rotate opponent’s wrist clockwise to expose under side of arm/elbow.  If opponent is smaller, the application is a break.  If the opponent is larger, bend the elbow into a take down.

·         Chudan Part 6:  sink into low neko achi dachi and scoop opponent’s arm up with LH.  The combinination of a low stance and higher block gives more space to kick.

Saifa – Comments after Monday’s class with green/brown belts

·         Stances are not established

Ø       In first three moves, need to check musubi dachi stance

Ø       In first three moves, after riken strike, pull back only to vertical position (don’t pull back to head)

Ø       In crane position, upper hand should be more central (should not be able to see it from behind)

Ø       Crane position should be more stable

·         Hammer fist should be one fist above knee.

·         Re no ji dachi stance needs to be improved (front foot points in direction of stance, back foot is 45 degree angle)

·         Everyone is taking too long in the second to last step.  The twisting motion is not its own move.  It is too slow.

·         On the last move, the lower hand is just above belt (it is not in chamber), the upper hand is at the patch level.

·         Neko achi dachi should be lower.  This is a finishing, closing stance.

·         Need to correct stances and technique before brown belt.  Use Saifa to check basics.

Mawashi Uke – Comments after Monday’s class with green/brown belts

·         Outside hand should be further away than inside hand.  This is like fighting stance where the top hand protects a chest level sphere and the bottom hand protects a stomach level sphere.

·         Practice closed hand jogi uke first.  Then practice using open hands (top hand does kake uke, bottom hand blocks lower/center area with palm down).

·         Green/brown belts during Monday’s class were doing mawashi uke very inconsistently.  We need to perform and teach it more consistently.

 

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