Thursday, 30 June 2011

Let’s torque it over…

On one of the hottest days of the year so far a group of around 50 martial artists of all ages donned their ‘angry white pyjamas’ in a school sports hall for a rare opportunity to attend a seminar with leading Aiwakai Sensei Peter May VI. I’m glad to say I was one of them, and was honoured to be Sensei’s Crash Test Dummy for the day.

The remit of the three-hour session was to run through the first three pinan katas in detail and to offer bunkai for the opening techniques which would assist the student in their understanding of application, speed and positioning.

After a gentle warm-up and some kihon line-work where Sensei corrected our basics we moved on to Pinan Nidan; working through the kata move by move as he explained the points of origin, transition and completion for the techniques. Particular focus was placed on the movement of the centre of the body and allowing the technique to follow the ‘core’.

It was really heartening to see so many junior students grasp this simple but fundamental element and as Sensei moved on to explain the application of the opening moves we were taught how the technique and shift of balance could be applied to several different defensive and offensive situations.

Experiencing the techniques on the receiving end first-hand was a fascinating opportunity and helped my understanding enormously. As Wado has its foundations in Jiu Jitsu rather than traditional Okinawan Karate, I’m far less familiar with these grappling and locking techniques than many of my peers.

Regular readers will know that I have struggled with the subtle differences between the Shotokan Heian and the Wado Pinan katas and trying to apply the bunkai I had worked out for Shotokan to the new Wado way of working has been causing me problems. In Shodan (which is confusing called Nidan in Shotokan…) the rising double block had always been a defence against a diagonal  weapon attack (bo, jo or sword) which is then captured between the arms as they are lowered and the weapon used against the attacker as the arms straighten out.

Sensei demonstrated the rising and outer blocks of the initial movement with various interpretations but thinking of the outer block more as a rising kidney punch made sense to me and improved the speed and quality of my technique…little things! I was also pleased that Sensei followed up the techniques with a range of locks and take-downs as bunkai for the second and third steps (although my arm was getting a little sore by this point!)

For Pinan Sandan (one of my weaker lower grade kata) Sensei focussed on the side-stepping elbow/forearm moves and demonstrated the generation of torque and grip. I found this really useful as I’d struggled to find effective justification for this (and the similar moves in Chinto) but also because this helped my understanding of some of the early kihon’s 1-5 which I am learning in preparation for my 2nd dan exam.
Overall the seminar was well-worth missing out on a hot summers afternoon and gave me plenty to think about. I think everyone should regularly revisit their earlier katas and try to apply new knowledge to old movements. So many thanks to Sensei May for a great session and a couple of lovely-looking bruises!

In other news:

You can see how we got on at the Mushindo Wadokai Championships in Walsall here.

This Sunday we’re off the Central England Opens. Wish us luck!

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Lines, Spines and something that shines...

It's been hard to find the time to write this post. Since the last entry karate has had to take second place to half-term holidays and an apprentice-style work competition which have both kept me busy and out of the dojo. Not that I'm complaining about the week long break I've taken, after a weekend that saw England selections on Saturday and a National competition on Sunday there was a real need to relax and rest.

I've been pleased with my performance in the England squad training sessions so far; having only been training in Wado since September last year I've managed to not embarrass myself when working with some of our international competitors which is pretty much all I could hope for. It was a foregone conclusion that I wouldn't be able to go this year I think, given my Shotoisms and the fact that I would have to learn two or three completely new katas in order to compete in October in Portugal. I have high hopes for next year, although I suspect I may have to wait until I'm over 40 and compete in the veterans...

The fantastic news is that some of our association did get places on the squad. Junaid, Alex and Lauren will compete in kumite (under 18 male, over 18 male and under 18 female respectively) and Yasmin and Yusra will compete in kata (under 10s and under 18s females) which is an amazing achievement and I share their pride.

Through working with Sensei's Sakagami VIII, Peter May V and our own club Sensei's I have had an intense few months of support and training to get my to a standard I feel, if not happy with, at least satisfied with. I know my weaknesses remain a tendancy to miss the 90 degree angle of techniques and place them at chudan rather than jodan. In wanshu my main problem is that I come off-centre on the jump (although I land solidly, which was previously my issue) I can't keep to a straight line, and I know this will cause a deduction in competition until I get it right.

As a squad we performed admirably at Nationals this year, taking home 16 medals (1 gold, 3 silver and 12 bronze), and I'm delighted to say that one of those bronze medals was mine after a tense three-round battle which saw me perform Yondan, Wanshu and Bassai to take third place. All the more amazing because earlier in the day I'd pulled muscles in my back (getting out of the car!!) and had to drop out of the pairs kata. At that point (about 9.30am) I was sure I wouldn't be competing at all and was flat on my back in the audience area. Fortunately a heady blend of ice-packs and nurofen did the trick and whilst stiff, it was a reasonably pain-free fifteen minutes on the mat.

I have two more competitions this season; an open kata championships and the CEWKA tournament and then the medals have to wait til next year. As of July I start training for my 2nd dan...

Watashi ga manabubeki koto ga takusan aru