EDITORIAL By John Cheetham.
Our featured Shotokan sensei in this edition of SKM, Luis Maria Sanz 7th Dan, is a perfect example of a former World Champion who has taken his karate to another level after his competition days were over. This is the Traditioal Karate way. Many times sport karate champions ‘retire’ after their competition career, and don’t continue with karate training, which speaks volumes for sport-karate! I can think of several big-names here in the UK who were former champions (usually in kumite) and now have hung up their dogi’s for good. It was just a sport to them that ends at 30/35 years of age, just like many other sports, e.g. soccer, rugby, athletics etc, etc... In Traditional Karate, this is the ‘start’ of the real study of karate-do and all that competition experience can be very useful in many ways. This for many students is an exciting time in their lives as now the pressure of competition is off and they can explore the many different facets of karate-do for the rest of their lives. Luis Maria Sanz is living proof of this philosophy.
Mike Clarke’s article raises an interesting point about how a student goes about leaving his or her teacher/sensei. The big problem I see with this, is the timing of such an event. Some people never want to, or have any need to leave their original teacher, which is brilliant to my mind. Whereas, there are other situations where for various reasons ‘a parting of the ways’ has to happen. And sad to say that many, many times this is caused by ‘political’ issues within the particular dojo or association and the student is almost forced to leave. However, what I have noticed over the years is that many students make the jump (leaving their teacher/dojo) far, far too soon before they have completely absorbed and learned what is on offer at their home dojo and with their own sensei. It’s like a ‘grass is greener’ scenario in many cases.
On a technical level, all things being equal, a good student of Shotokan or any traditional martial art needs to get to at least nidan or sandan before they are mature enough (in karate terms) to decide that they are ready to move on in order to improve their karate. On a personal level, it does happen that occasionally a student does not feel happy at a particular dojo and can’t adapt to the type of training etc etc... This is different. What I’m stressing here is the maturity angle in pure karate terms. My advice is, if you find a good instructor and you are happy in the dojo, then stay where you are. Improvement is 95% down to you anyway, and the work you put in, the sensei is a guide, pointing you in the right direction, only you can do what it takes to continually improve your karate level, there is no magic solution! As I said before at nidan/sandan for example you may wish to experiment, we have all done it, although many times it can be a big mistake. But before your karate has had time to mature, hopefully along with your character, swopping and changing dojos and instructors will get you nowhere, and very fast!
Good Health, good training. Editor.
INDIA INVITES KAWASOE SENSEI. Report By Somnath Palchowdury.
Masao Kawasoe 7th Dan JKA needs no introduction for SKM readers, therefore I don’t want to waste any print on that.
The name Masao Kawasoe was known to me from the book Best Karate Kumite 2 (Volume 4) by M. Nakayama. That’s it. I had come to know little more about him, technically, during my first visit to England in 1990 when I came across a video tape named “The Kawasoe Way”. I bought one and was thoroughly impressed. Having no idea more or less about the man until I met John Cheetham, in 1993 and bought as many back issues as I could afford (I also became a subscriber and still I am); and I was zapped by an article by Dave Hooper in SKM issue no. 14. The article attributed some kind of deep respect about certain instructors’ viz. Tsuyama, Osaka and Kawasoe. As Kawasoe sensei was based in London, I found him more accessible than the other two. However, though I visited England again in 1995, I couldn’t get an opportunity to meet and train with the instructor of my choice. It was only in 1997 I got an opportunity to attend Kawasoe sensei’s Edinburgh course along with three other greats, senseis Shirai, Ochi and Naito. It was like a new horizon opened up for me, training, making new friends on the course and I was particularly honoured to be a little friendly with Kawasoe sensei and his senior student Kenneth Taylor; where I didn’t miss the opportunity to invite sensei over to India during one of our late night chats. Things did not worked out for me. I attended Kawasoe sensei’s Windsor course in 2001, senseis Nishiyama, Shirai and Naito also teaching. This time Kawasoe sensei was kind enough to allot a date for India which we had failed to host. The main reason being economical; we had to wait until 2nd May 2014 to receive Kawasoe sensei at the Kolkata (Calcutta) airport. It’s been a long time passed but the course proved worth the wait. Here is a report of the first ever Kawasoe course in India where Kawasoe sensei gave 100% demonstrating, explaining, coaching, even going to the extent of personal attention to many; treating Indian karateka to perform copy book grammatically correct karate. To meet the budget, the All India Budo Shotokan Karate Association, Indian Federation of Shotokan Karate and JKS India (West Bengal) teamed up to host Kawasoe sensei in Kolkata.
The course was for three days Fri 2nd to Sun 4th May, 2014 at 10,000 soft rubber matted air-conditioned sports hall of the Spring Club, Kolkata. The course was attended by 350 karateka from different parts of the country and Bangladesh. Kawasoe sensei was welcomed by Mr. Mitsutake Numahata Honorable acting Consul General of Japan in Kolkata along with many other dignitaries. Mreenal Chakraborty, an eminent sports psychologist and sports motivational speaker had set the stage for the high voltage training course with his out of the world motivational talk.
Kawasoe sensei started the first session (only evening) of the course with the drill for developing hikite. That led him to connect with various basic techniques of karate – choku zuki, gyaku zuki, kizami zuki, age uke, soto uke, uchi uke, gedan barai etc. all as kihon (basic techniques from static position). He then took us to perform these techniques and combinations in ido kihon (basic techniques on the move). To perform good effective technique one needs to be in a good dachi stance. Sensei therefore demonstrated dachi waza and transforming from one stance to another. It was wonderful watching sensei shifting effortlessly from one stance to other viz. kiba dachi to zenkutsu dachi to kokutsu dachi to neko ashi dachi… zenkutsu dachi to sochin dachi to kiba dachi to kokutsu dachi etc. Kawasoe sensei explained the importance of correct and different hip positions in each stance to execute effective techniques that have potentiality to destroy the opponent’s waza. The whole class was then pushed to practice various techniques in different stances using correct hip movements from proper stance, keeping the posture and using fast hikite. The practice showed instant results on the techniques of the participants which were transformed to more explosive ones by the end of the class.
The second day’s morning session started with the revision of the last evening session and carried forward by kicks, the Kawasoe way. Wow!!! What lightning speed and flexibility the man has at his age. It’s advised not to raise your rear heel while lifting the back leg of zenkutsu dachi for mae geri. The rear foot then crosses the knee height of the front/base leg and shoots off thereafter. The knee of the kicking leg (fulcrum) is not to be dropped before the foot snaps back close to the thigh of the kicking leg. Hips play a very vital role to generate explosive kime behind the kick. Many participants were noticed by Kawasoe sensei pushing their hips forward to an extent that it’s difficult for them to come back or withdraw. Kawasoe sensei then gave a thorough demonstration of correct hip work, knee positioning, snap and role of base leg (which should remain bent) required for various kicks – mae geri, mawashi geri, yoko geri keage, yoko geri kekome and ushiro geri. Sensei took us through practice of all these kicks in correct form shown by incorporating them into various ido kihon combinations. The brown and black belts were then asked to do Bassai-dai with sensei’s count, checked and corrected. Sensei cautioned us of doing extra large movements at the opening move of the kata and during move 2 through 5 where we execute uchi uke, uchi uke and turn soto uke, uchi uke. He emphasized to maintain the same axis while executing choku zuki – uchi uke twice during move 10 through 13 of the kata. A great deal of explanation and time was spent on correct use of foot work all along the kata; during the grasping block, tsukami uke in move 18. Kawasoe sensei then performed various important parts of the kata showing “how to do it” the JKA way.
The afternoon session of the second day was allotted for Kata treatment for all grades. He had started with Heian Shodan followed by Heian Nidan and Heian Sandan. Stress was given to the following points of Heian Shodan: the correct hip movement of the opening move gedan barai uke, hammer fist strike at the fourth move and how to shift the body weight first, on our right leg before we move for gedan barai uke at the sixth move of the kata. Many finer points in Heian Nidan were stressed and practiced repeatedly; slow, half speed with count and then correct speed and power without count. Special attention was given on hikite and hip work for the seventh move of Heian Nidan where we withdraw our right leg to prepare for side snap kick and back fist strike. We also practiced move sixteen through twenty-two several times focusing on correct hip movements – gyaku hanme – shomen – gyaku hanme, correct foot positioning in zenkutsu dachi whilst doing these moves and short semi-circular movement for uchi uke. We were required to maintain the same height whilst performing front kicks during these moves. In Heian Sandan we were asked to stand up (body lifting) and simultaneously execute uchi uke and gedan barai in move 2-3 and 5-6. The coordination of the same with hip vibration is the essence of these moves. Turning from move 8 (nukite) through 9 got special Kawasoe treatment. Move 12 through 17 was practiced repeatedly until sensei was fairly satisfied with the coordination of hip work while landing for elbow block and back-fist strike in semi-circular motion. The last two moves 19 and 20 also got the Kawasoe touch with the importance of correctly executing yori ashi in kiba dachi and correct positioning of elbow whilst doing back swinging punch and rear elbow strike. Kata Jion for Brown and Black Belts were then treated by Kawasoe sensei. Special emphasis was given to many areas that are usually neglected by general karateka. One particular place was where we perform jodan juji uke, jodan uraken uchi, chudan zuki-uke and jodan ura zuki (move 34 through 37); we needed to use very correct hip work (hip vibration) to make the techniques really effective. Other areas were moves 43-45 and 46-47.
We had a photo session for half an hour with Kawasoe sensei and various dojo that attended the course. Some travelling from different parts of India and as far as Chittagong, Bangladesh that took some 25 hours by bus. Sensei was patient and had pleased everyone with his smile.
The last day’s morning session was started with the explanation, demonstration and practice of yori ashi, suri ashi, oi komi, sugi ashi etc. incorporating various punching, striking and kicking techniques during that footwork. Sensei then demonstrated and explained the importance of sensing vunerable timing (kyo) to catch the opponent by executing techniques using that footwork to get maximum result with minimum effort and finish off (ikken hissatsu). He gave considerable time and put lots of effort in explaining the importance and result of “pushing down” while moving or executing a technique, kick or punch. The scientific principles of body dynamics – body dropping, body shifting, body lifting, body pendulum, body vibration were explained exclusively for the black belts.
The afternoon, the last session of the course was kept for Kata Bassai Sho. Every single step of the kata got special Kawasoe attention and treatment. To surprise all who were present, Kawasoe sensei took the class through cooling down and stretching exercises himself, leaving the spectators in awe with his balance and flexibility. After the formal ceremonial bow at the end of the session, Kawasoe sensei was thanked with thunderous applause by the karateka, parents and guests who attended the course. He’s officially invited by the hosts again next year which he has accepted and we have promised him to keep on training and practicing hard adopting his teachings and hopefully to grow from strength to strength.
Sensei and I had many interesting conversations during our leisure time in Kolkata. You may find these interesting:
I asked Kawasoe sensei, as we practice oi-zuki, gyaku-zuki, kizami-zuki, age-uke, soto-uke, gedan barai-uke, mae-geri etc hundreds and thousands of times in our karate life it’s natural that these techniques while we use those in kata remain very effective and powerful. Don’t you think the many unusual techniques that we only use during the practice of particular kata and never in basic-kihon or ido-kihon are weaker than the others? To balance all the techniques why don’t we practice the unusual techniques of karate also in basic-kihon and ido-kihon with equal importance? What’s JKA’s view on this?
Sensei found this very interesting and agreed with me. However, he added after some time that he thinks, with strong and correct basic techniques we can generate equal power in any technique that we practice less.
I told him that I have noticed that gedan-mawashi-geri used in contact karate or Thai-boxing is a very powerful weapon. Shotokan has adopted many techniques from Okinawan and Chinese martial arts; why not JKA adopt gedan-mawashi also into its syllabus to make JKA Karate more complete? Sensei agreed on this too and told me that he might discuss this point in JKA. We had wonderful conversation during the entire duration of his stay in Kolkata and I enjoyed sensei’s company thoroughly. He’s a complete gentleman. Great heartfelt thanks for Kawasoe sensei and Kenneth Taylor for all their support.