Saturday, 20 December 2014

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND KARATE SEMINAR: January 2015


On January 10th and 11th I’ll be coaching a weekend of Karate-Do seminars in Christchurch, New Zealand. This will be a one off event before I return to Japan. As most people are away (on holiday) at this time, and the sudden notification, it is expected that not so many karateka will attend; nevertheless, this will result in the attendees getting much more personal tuition than usual.

The venue has yet to be decided; however, the schedule will be as follows:

Session one: Saturday 1pm - 3pm

Session Two: Saturday 4pm- 6pm

Session Three: Sunday 9am - 11am

Session Four: Sunday 12pm – 2pm

If you wish reserve a place, please email me directly at: andrebertelono@gmail.com. Already karateka from around New Zealand, and from Australia, have confirmed their attendance. For those attending, see you in New Zealand. Osu, André.

© André Bertel. Aso-shi, Kumamoto. Japan (2014).

Friday, 19 December 2014

Trainee from Sydney, Australia: Leo Pintos

Leo at Kokuzou Jinja.
Leo Pintos, from Sydney Australia, came to Japan to train at my private dojo last week. Leo has attended several of my karate-do seminars (in New Zealand and Australia) so it was great to see him here in Kumamoto Prefecture. I will not specifically detail the training he received—as that is for him—and for whom he chooses to share this knowledge with; however, I will provide a brief outline, and a few photographs, from his training with me here in Japan.

Leo, me, and Morooka san: movement one of Enpi kata.
Day one: After some sightseeing at Aso Jinja (Shrine) the first two hour session began. This covered the subtle points of traditional Japanese kihon that are most commonly misunderstood; in particular, "...the aspects that are essential for budo karate, which essentially work towards the objective of ichigeki-hissatsu (the ability to down an adversary with a single blow)". Again, without going into detail, this primarily focused on foot positioning, use of the legs and hips: essentially, the kahanshin. This training was then seamlessly applied to Enpi kata, Gohon kumite and Kihon ippon kumite. Overall, the proper connection of the '3 K's', which leads to karate being highly effective (for self-defence in the real world), was decisively practiced.
Traditional application of movement one of Enpi.

Traditional application of movement two of Enpi.
 Day two: I took Leo for sightseeing at Kumamoto-Jo (Kumamoto Castle) and Musashi Koen (the park that hosts the grave of Japan's legendary swordsman, Musashi Miyamoto). I have to say that I had a great time hanging out with Leo… Super bloke! Following this, we went for a few hours of training at the JKA (Japan Karate Association) Kumamoto Chuo Shibu under Nakamura Shihan and Akiyoshi Sensei. This session really reinforced the previous day's training as it covered Jiyu Kumite Kihon; Gohon Kumite, Jiyu Ippon Kumite, and several rounds of Jiyu Kumite; and Kata (free-choice). Leo and I performed Enpi based on the previous days practice. Unambiguously, he did really well and everyone at the dojo took a shine to him immediately.

 
Kime with haito uchi.
Day three: On day three Morooka San and his family took Leo sightseeing here in Aso-shi. This included the famous Daikanbo lookout point where one can see the caldera in its full glory. Following that, the two hours of training expanded on days one and two. Morooka San further emphasised the points covered, and these were expanded upon. My theme again, in this class, was `karate as a martial art’. Kanku Dai was also trained, in addition to Enpi. Once again, the real meanings, and foci, of Gohon Kumite, Kihon Ippon, Jiyu Ippon Kumite were stressed. The session ended with a controlled Budo Jiyu Kumite drill (which must not be `sparring’ but, rather, “reinforce full commitment of the body every time one attacks”). After this training, which I should say was at the new Aso-Budojo (i.e. - not my `refrigerated dojo), a nomikai (drinking party) was well deserved!

Kime with jodan zuki to the throat.
Day four: Leo’s final day of training recapitulated everything on a deeper level. We also covered the oyo (applications) of Enpi, which come from the origins of Wanshu in Okinawa. This was done
via the first level of Oyo Kumite. Again, this is for  Leo, as he took the plunge and came to Japan with Budo Spirit; that is, he talked with his karate and put himself on the line.

Energy dissipated by Morooka San's uke and body shift.
To conclude, I really respect Leo as a karateka and also as a person. Mizuho and I are honoured to know him. Domo arigato gozaimashita Leo San, you are always welcome at my dojo here in Japan. Furthermore, Morooka San, Nakamura Shihan, Akiyoshi Sensei, and all the members of JKA Kumamoto Chuo hope to see you again! You have made many friends in Japan. Osu, André.

© André Bertel. Aso-shi, Kumamoto. Japan (2014).
Kime with migi jodan gyaku-zuki by Morooka San.

Jodan mawashi-geri



Hidari seiken jodan-zuki to the throat.

Jodan mawashi-geri.
Morooka San, Leo, and me, after the Saturday training at my dojo.
Leo: movement one of Kanku-Dai Kata.
Movement one of Enpi at Kokuzou Jinja (Aso-shi, Kumamoto, Japan). Even though you can't see it, it was lightly snowing.
Leo after training at the JKA (Japan Karate Association) Kumamoto Chuo Branch.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Correct elbow positions in ukewaza

Migi zenkutsu-dachi with migi chudan uchi uke.
The position of one’s elbows when utilizing ukewaza (reception techniques) must be fully understood, and correctly applied, whether using ukewaza for defence, attack or both simultaneously.

A good way to learn this is to learn this is from the top down: especially in a freestyle context such as jiyu-kumite or via self-defence scenario training. Have your partner attack you, and attack relentlessly (without concern of your counter offensive manoeuvre; that is, their safety); accordingly, restrict your actions to only ukewaza.

At first concentrate on (using) your hands: This is typical amongst beginners and is very difficult if the opponent is relatively strong, and aggressive. Secondly, concentrate on (using) your elbows to move your hands. This, in comparison, you will find is much more easy and, understatedly, far more effective. Of course this also equally applies to ashi-uke (leg blocks) i.e. - focusing on the knees instead of the feet. I'd like to elucidate here that I am not disregarding the imperative use of the hips, the criticality of body shifting/footwork, and so forth. Rather, this is an isolation exercise for better understanding the elbows (in the overall context of karate-do waza).

Returning to the "basic" ukewaza, which we train in a formalized context (kihon, kata and yakusoku-kumite), we quickly gain an appreciation of our elbows. From here, let's consider the five most 'standard ukewaza' of Shotokan-Ryu as established by Funakoshi Gichin Shuseki-Shihan, at  the foundation of the JKA (Japan Karate Association), namely jodan age uke, chudan soto uke, chudan uchi uke, gedan barai and chudan shuto uke.
 

  (1)  Jodan age uke: wrist one fist width from the forehead and forearm diagonal.

(2)  Chudan soto uke: elbow one fist width from the body and bent 90 degrees.

(3)   Chudan uchi uke: elbow one fist width from the body and bent 90 degrees.

(4)  Gedan barai: wrist one fist width above the knee and elbow one fist width from the body.
 
(5)  Chudan shuto uke: elbow one fist width from the body and bent 90 degrees.
Hidari kokutsu-dachi with migi shuto chudan uke.
In all cases, with the exception of shuto uke (where the sword hand is applied), the blocking surface is one's tekubi (wrist) and, 'fundamentally speaking', all of them target the opponents respective wrists and ankles; furthermore, the power of all ukewaza primarily derives from your centre; most notably, the hips. In particular, this comes from koshi no kaiten, which like all `technical categories' in karate-do can be applied via jun-kaiten, gyaku-kaiten, or a combination of the two (often referenced as 'hip vibration'). However, koshi no kaiten cannot be so easily summarised as "..there are also various degrees of rotation and appropriate usage, which differs `case-by-case'". Additionally, it involves using the seika tanden and numerous other parts of the body (and a vast array of aspects, which establish `mastery'). Needless to say, we could go on and on but, for the sake of this article, I'd like to return to the issue of one's elbows.

So where do the elbows, in the context of the `core ukewaza’, fit in relation to one's overall effectiveness? Well, besides the point mentioned above in the freestyle context (essentially controlling what the hands/wrists “do”), the distance of the elbows in relation to the torso determine leverage. In simple terms, as the blocking elbow gets further away from the body the basic ukewaza become weak. Ironically, if it comes closer to the body (than a fist width) they lose functionality/applicability.

If this point is fully expressed one can create a huge amount of power if the waist is fully applied, via the rear leg, and the shoulders relaxed (all the other aspects such as shime simply add to these points). In this way, the feeling is to attack with both your wrist and elbow as single unit. Suddenly age uke becomes a rising elbow strike; soto uke - a roundhouse elbow strike; uchi uke - a side elbow strike; and both gedan barai and shuto uke become downward elbow strikes. Again, this goes beyond various forms of enpi-uchi...

Another aspect I'd like to mention here is 'over blocking'; that is, executing ukewaza beyond the body or head. A "classic error" is chudan soto uke in, say, Gohon kumite (Five step sparring) where the defender superfluously moves. All of my students will laugh here, because you all know what I'm about to say and what I do when this happens... When someone over blocks, in Gohon kumite (or in any of the forms of Ippon kumite), I immediately punch jodan. For me, when this occurs, they have given me a huge gap of time that I can't resist capitalizing on and—much more importantly—it gives me the opportunity to give my students a `foundational lesson’... I then ask them, "…were you imagining you were also defending someone next to you?" To me this is the benefit of yakusoku-kumite because in any form of 'freestyle' "...superfluous `over-action’ is what will get one hurt in serious dojo kumite or in a match (or killed in the likes of a carjacking, home invasion and the like)".  If such key fundamental points are not second nature in one's technique, even in a basic pre-arranged context—in the somewhat `safety of the dojo’—they certainly won't be able to be applied in an unpredictable circumstance (of a serious match or in a real fight). In sum, it is obvious that "if one continues to practice in this way they are literally reinforcing very-very bad habits". But here's the good news, if you do your ukewaza correctly (adhering to proper kihon and kata) you will not over block; moreover, you will learn to use and adapt to combative variations subconsciously, which is the beauty of strictly practicing budo. I can say this with confidence from my experience in the security industry, on the door, private protection jobs, and in other occupational contexts of my former life.

Some of you reading this may be questioning the 'the elbow one fist from the body' rule mentioned in this article (in relation to chudan ukewaza); furthermore, you may be questioning the issue of techniques such as tate shuto chudan uke. To answer these questions: Firstly, yes it is true that around twenty years ago chudan uke were changed to 1.5 fist widths from the body by Sugiura Motokuni Shuseki-Shihan (i.e. – in the `Karate-Do Kata’ textbooks; however, this has recently been amended to one fist width. This is a minor difference, and 'application-wise' insignificant, but I believe is better, based on further simplification. Simplicity is what I learned to appreciate when I had to use my karate in the real world. Secondly, in the case of some ukewaza, such as tate shuto, the energy applied is different; for example, swinging the uke in an arc. This idea is consistent with muchiken-waza such as kesa shuto uchi, sotomawashi haito uchi and, indeed, various keriwaza.

Migi ashi mae hangetsu dachi with migi chudan uchi-uke.
 A critical error with basic chudan uke: one typical error that is seen by sports kata exponents is making their chudan uke too high. For example, numerous kata 'champions' perform their ryo keito chudan haneageuke (movement two of Unsu kata) incorrectly. Such 'changes' in the techniques of karate, merely for aesthetics or to make performance more easy, is clearly due to a total lack of understanding, faking power, or—in most cases—both. Essentially what they do is turn karate kata into an odd dance form. The same can be seen by their exchanging yoko keage for yoko kekomi, excessive pauses, and performing other superfluous actions. Worse than the athletes doing this are those who copy them around the world! And yes, there are legions of them. It’s what I guess can be termed ‘karate fads’ and unambiguously have no relationship with actual karate—the martial art. In saying that, this helps to identify genuine from the artificial karate.

A key indicator of correctness: "The top of the fist, or finger tips of shuto, when executing the core chudan ukewaza is in-line with the top of the shoulder (with VERY SLIGHT VARIATIONS depending on ones arm length etc.)". Keeping this in mind, with `the one fist width from the body rule', and the elbow bent at right angle: and the correct form becomes immediately apparent. This is the most effective and physiologically/biomechanically strongest position for the core chudan ukewaza... "If you have a look around you will see many sports kata `world champions' who do this incorrectly. Indeed, this is one of the numerous ways of easily separating budo karate (real martial arts karate) from fake karate, which is merely for show". While this may sound like I am repeating myself, I am, on purpose...

Last, but not least, by adhering to the correct form (and principles) of the core ukewaza one can maximize their ukewaza in un-prearranged context: whether the karateka wishes to block/cover/parry, strike, lock or apply a joint lock/dislocation. In traditional budo karate, irrespective of style, "kihon, kata and kumite are one; moreover, this is not merely an abstract idea". Hence, the techniques of real karate always reflect optimal functionality in a freestyle context. The key is to know the 'how's' and 'why's', which are often misunderstood in the greater karate world. Of course, this transcends the positions of one's elbows; nonetheless, "...such points collectively come together and literally establish authentic karate technique, which is grounded on the tradition of optimum functionality".
Kiba dachi with hidari sokumen gedan-uke.
All the very best from Kumamoto-ken, Japan. Osu, André
© André Bertel. Aso-shi, Kumamoto. Japan (2014).

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Kokuzou Jinja Training

Yesterday I had—like always—another excellent Karate-Do training with my close friend and training partner, Morooka Takafumi San (JKA 4th Dan). We trained at Kokuzou Jinja (http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E5%9B%BD%E9%80%A0%E7%A5%9E%E7%A4%BE), which is one of my regular `outdoor practice areas’ here in Aso-shi.

We began by engaging in Gohon Kumite (Five step sparring), Kihon Ippon Kumite (Fundamental one step sparring) and Jiyu Ippon Kumite (Free one step sparring), followed by several rounds of Jiyu Kumite (Free sparring). What I like about Morooka San’s kumite is that he is a big strong man, but he is also a `budo karate technician’—he has real ‘kime’; moreover, he is a highly intelligent guy and this is how he fights. Needless to say, it is always great and challenging to do Jiyu Kumite with him.

Following our jiyu kumite matches we worked on gyaku-zuki. I’d like to thank Morooka San here for giving me some excellent advice on my gyaku-zuki as he is a tsukiwaza specialist. My reason for mentioning this is to emphasise that ‘in our training, we have a two-way-relationship of constructive criticism, which I believe is essential for all senior karateka'. I guess this is my motivation behind this post...

We then practiced kata, starting with Gojushiho Sho, then moving on to Sochin and Enpi. The difficulty of training kihon and kata at Kokuzou is the soft surface restricts the ability to maximise the power from the ground; hence, it is a positive challenge as it pushes one to maximise their technique. To further elucidate, and without going into detail, the surface of the ground is covered in volcanic ash (as Aso-shi sits inside of a massive caldera).
After practice, at my home, we went over several points from the recent seminars under Ueki Masaaki Shihan (JKA Chief Instructor). This included Kihon Ippon Kumite—Kiri Kaeshi; the recent changes of the JKA kata in regards to elbow positions (from Morooka San's analysis of the new `Japanese edition' of KARATEDO KATA: VOL. 2); and several other aspects. Overall, a super day of solid Karate-Do training and sharing of knowledge. Domo arigato gozaimashita Morooka San.
 © André Bertel. Aso-shi, Kumamoto. Japan (2014).

Friday, 14 November 2014

Italian trainee from Canada: Pietro Giordan

Pietro and I, at dinner, after his final private lesson earlier this evening. 
Pietro Giordan, an Italian 2nd Dan (who is a university professor based in Toronto, Canada), has been training at my private dojo for the last couple of days. He flew all the way here to Kumamoto for some ‘one-on-one training’.

Pietro at my dojo in Aso-shi.
The private lessons I have taught Pietro have focused on the ‘core kihon’ of Karate-Do and the aspects that underpin on-going high-level development; namely, correct koshi no kaiten (the rotation of the hips), tai no shinshuku (the contraction and expansion of the body), and junansei (softness). These three points added to “the correct position at the `pre-point’, `initiation’, `delivery’, and `completion’ (of techniques)” was covered.


Some key points of Enpi for Pietro. Movement one: MIGI ASHI ORISHIKI HIDARI HIZA TATE. MIGI ZENWAN GEDAN BARAI. HIDARI ZENWAN SUIGETSU MAE KAMAE.
Movement 14 of Enpi kata: SASHO HIDARI NANAME MAE UE (KIBA DACHI).
Movement 34 of Enpi kata: MIGI TEISHO CHUDAN OSHIAGE UKE. HIDARI TEISHO CHUDAN OSHIAGE UKE (MIGI ZENKUTSU DACHI).
A particular aspect that was looked at in great depth was unsoku (leg movements) and correctly applying/”sliding” linear techniques along the chushin (centreline). From there it was possible to look at the more unorthodox techniques that I practice and teach; accordingly, this, in turn, clarified that “…in order to perform these techniques, kata, and applications (from outside of standard Shotokan) one must have solid Shotokan”. Ultimately, this culminated in the various forms of sparring ranging from Gohon kumite to Jiyu kumite (focusing their specific purposes from a `Karate in Japan’ perspective). Needless to say, special coverage of tenshin (rotational techniques) and snapping techniques (including muchiken-waza) were also addressed.It is worth mentioning that the private training included the rationale behind a number of the more common drills/exercises that I teach on international courses (and, indeed, when practice/teach in my private dojo on a daily basis). Those who have attended my classes (or seminars here in Japan and/or around the world) well know that ‘these rationales imperative to understand: so that the exercises/drills are not merely a novelty’. The key point here is that “…everything one does—in their physical training—should decisively work towards the development of effective martial arts karate”. Accordingly, it cannot be stressed enough that “in Traditional Japanese Karate-Do, the physical aim of techniques is always to achieve a single finishing blow (Ichigeki-hissatsu)”.

Lastly, a couple of formal exercises were covered, Enpi and a non-syllabus kata; however, these are for Pietro, so I won’t say anything further. I look forward to seeing his kihon, kata and kumite in the future.
Overall, I wish Pietro the very best and hope that the last couple of days of training here at my dojo will help his long-term karate development. As I say to everyone who comes to me for private training, “consume what you find useful and spit out the rest”. All I hope is that Pietro has at least gained one point that will help progress his Karate-Do and that he thoroughly enjoyed the classes. It was a pleasure to meet you Pietro! Please have a safe and enjoyable trip back to Canada. I look forward to hearing your report about training here in Japan. Osu, André.
Movement 36 of Enpi: HIDARI KAITEN TOBI. HIDARI KOKUTSU DACHI, MIGI SHUTO CHUDAN UKE.
© André Bertel. Aso-shi, Kumamoto. Japan (2014).

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Ueki Shihan Kyushu Seminar Report

Over the weekend I attended the best Karate-Do seminar I’ve ever attended in my 33 years of practice. Last year was great but this year was "awesome".The training, conducted Ueki Masaaki Shuseki-Shihan (Chief Instructor of Japan Karate Association), included a staggering amount of high level knowledge; and like Ueki Sensei’s seminar last year, was delivered in the utmost masterful way.

 For anyone who has attended Ueki Shihan’s classes, you will know that they always include a finely acute balance of kihon, kata and kumite—the `technical trinity of Karate-Do’; accordingly, this weekend’s seminar followed this highly methodological approach. Here is a very brief outline of what Ueki Shuseki-Shihan taught. – André.
 
KIHON: The kihon taught this year was focused on multiple points, which were seamlessly interrelated to essentially “…foster overall improvement (of one’s Budo Karate) by centring power, and balance, in the seika tanden”. With this generic theme the following points were practiced: (a) stance checks for extreme balance (pushing one’s partner from various angles/directions when they were executing jodan age-uke kara chudan gyaku-zuki in zenkutsu-dachi). I’d like to add here that Ueki Shihan stressed that jodan age uke must be straight on, diagonal, and the typical `one fist from the forehead’. Furthermore, that the eyes must be fixed and mimi must remain stationary—especially when moving between shomen and hanmi; (b) pelvic alignment (the best practice of this was `four rapid/continuous mae-geri’ where the hips must remain square and the spine perfectly erect (and, the same conceptualisation, with `ippo sagatte gedan-barai kara jun-zuki’). I should mention that to do this precise, at maximum speed, can be very challenging when fatigue sets; (c) generating power from the tsumasaki into the hips (the entire body must be used), which was practiced via choku-zuki. It was great to readdress this fundamental point, which can’t be stressed enough; (d) the latest JKA Sohonbu evolution of stances—namely zenkutsu-dachi (with jun-zuki), hangetsu-dachi (with chudan uchi-uke kara gyaku-zuki), fudo-dachi (with jodan age-uke kara gyaku –zuki), sanchin-dachi (with ‘mawashi-uke’ kara teisho awase-zuki); sanchin-dachi (with ryo ken ryo koshi mae kara awase zuki) and neko ashi-dachi (with yori-ashi and teisho gedan awase-uke); and (e) the new `tighter’ loading of yoko-kekomi for a larger scale action via centralisation. I’d like to add here that the focus was on natural energy, and more natural position, in the Shotokan-ryu tachikata and with unsoku (leg movements). Indeed, lots of things to work on!!!

KATA: This year a huge amount of kata were covered: these included Hangetsu and Gankaku, which were the main focus for the shinsain test, which I didn’t take; but also Jitte, Kanku-Sho, Sochin, Nijushiho, and Gojushiho Sho. I won’t go into all of the points taught, as there are far too many; however, I will mention some, which stand out from my notes. (i) The `chudan uchi-uke kara gyaku-zuki’ in Hangetsu is now all performed in shomen as opposed to rotating into hanmi—which returns it `to its Okinawan roots’—furthermore,  makes it more unique/`technically meaningful’ amongst the Shotokan-ryu kata;  (ii) also in Hangetsu kata, the rear legs thy must point shomen and width has been further narrowed (also chudan-zuki after mikazuki geri): this is not new, but I was still doing gedan-zuki. Stance-wise, it was great to get some personal advice on my Hangetsu-dachi from Ueki Shihan; (iii) for Nijushiho, the `ryo ken ryo koshi’ is now horizontal to the floor as opposed to being vertical and tsukami-uke downwards; (iv) in the case of Gojushiho-sho, the hand positions of the three shihon-nukite (the trademark renwaza/kogeki in this kata) was extensively explained and emphasised (other points stressed were “commonplace” i.e. – centring the knee when executing fumikomi and wider grasping blocks in the first kiba-dachi sequences follow sokumen gedan-uke with haito). The list goes on…

KUMITE: The focus was (1) Kihon ippon kumite (jodan to yoko-kekomi); (2) Kihon ippon kumite (with kiri-kaeshi against jodan and chudan jun-zuki); and (3) Jiyu-kumite attacks with mae-geri and yoko-kekomi depending on the opponent’s kamae. Basically, this part of the lesson was strongly linked to the aspects of pelvic alignment and balance that was taught in kihon; consequently, it concluded with partner balance checks once again. Ueki Shihan demonstrated his spectacular mae-geri multiple times, which literally cannot be blocked! It is a case of ‘if you are there, it will hit you”. All I can say is “Awesome!”… Taken as a whole, the focus, in kumite practice, remains unchanged in the JKA, ‘to make kime with all techniques’; thereby, disregarding karate that is merely to wins games. This is, of course, the technical essence of Budo Karate. Relating to this—in the sense of `progression in Karate-Do’—one thing that I have physically come to appreciate even more (in recent months and more so through this seminar) is Gohon Kumite and Kihon Ippon Kumite. Done right and they are essential training tools. This is something I will leave for now, but will certainly write about in the near future.
JKA Japan examinations: Shidoin no shinsa: The second day included JKA dan and qualification exams. I have started resitting my qualifications from the beginning, so I merely tested for `C Class’ Shidoin (instructor) and `D Class Shinpan’ (Judge). I really messed up my kata as I missed doing any warm-up and literally had to run back into the gymnasium and start immediately. I’ve had an unlucky year with kata in 2014 but, again, a good learning experience… In saying that, by the time the kumite section of the test came, I was fully warm and ready to go; consequently, this went well. I also `lucked out’ as I got paired up with my good friend and training partner, Morooka San, who has very-very powerful budo karate.

Shinpan no shinsa: The judging test, as always, was an enjoyable affair with the typical revolving ‘four checks as a flag judge’, `one check as an arbitrator’, and `one check as the shinpan-cho (head referee)’. As soon as I started judging the matches I went back into autopilot, which meant I could simply enjoy the shinpan exam. Still, I got some advice from Nakamura Akiyoshi Sensei, which really helped before I entered the tatami. The written tests for instructor and judge went well, thanks to Nakamura Masamitsu Shihan (arranging that I didn’t have to read and write kanji). The complexity of the kanji in the exams is far beyond my capacity, so reading the questions in English and responding in Romanji was imperative to have any chance of passing. I’d like to offer my thanks here to Nakamura Shihan and Yamaguchi Sensei (Kyushu Sohonbu) for allowing that: domo arigato gozaimashita.
Last but not least I had a really fun time sharing a tatami room with Nakamura Akiyoshi Sensei, and dojo mates (Katayama Senpai, Ogasawara Senpai and Morooka San). These guys are all super blokes and we had more than a few laughs: not to mention `a couple of refreshments’. Also a special thanks to Morooka San for the ride to and from Nogata. I really appreciate you all, and your wonderful friendship through Karate-Do. – André.

© André Bertel. Aso-shi, Kumamoto. Japan (2014).

Sunday, 26 October 2014

The new JKA Grading Syllabus

Mawashi geri is now not `formally tested' until the JKA Nikkyu-shinsa.
Although feeling better—I am still very unwell—so, today I thought I’d briefly analyse the new JKA (Japan Karate Association) grading requirements, which were recently released here in Japan. The new syllabus introduces some significant changes in the kihon, kata and kumite testing, which all point towards “stronger foundational budo karate”.
 
For example, the 10th Kyu is now `a tested rank’ that features stationary kihon and, therefore, provides an extended time to develop core basic skills. Likewise, on the kata front, Taikyoku Shodan (as long expected via its inclusion in various gasshuku/training camps) has been reintroduced. What makes this interesting is that the Heian kata have been pushed forward, now being tested from 7th Kyu (as opposed to 8th Kyu). Naturally, this results in Tekki Shodan becoming the kata for the 2nd Kyu exam. Even more interesting is that the 1st kyu test now limits examinee to select one kata (from either Bassai Dai or Kanku Dai)—I think this is great! The kumite is just as interesting with Gohon kumite remaining at 8th and 7th Kyu; and `standard’ Kihon ippon kumite for 6th, 5th and 4th Kyu; however, for the 3rd and 2nd Kyu `Kihon Ippon Kumite (Kiri kaeshi) is now required. You can read about this in my syllabus outline below and the aforementioned point, about “stronger
foundatinal budo karate”, should resonate. Accordingly, Jiyu Ippon Kumite is now only for the 1st Kyu and Shodan examinations, but again with greater focus on `proper kime’ as opposed to the modern `trends’ that have come about through the sportification of karate. For higher ranks, there is also another change. For those taking the Rokudan or Nanadan, there is now a choice between Jiyu Kumite or Kihon ippon kumite.
 
Of course there are many other little changes, but these are for you to find. I, for one, am really excited about the new syllabus as I can see how it will really contribute towards to the development of `up-and-coming karateka’ and help to better preserve Traditional Budo Karate. Best wishes from Kumamoto-ken, André.

 10TH KYU

Kihon

1. Chudan choku zuki (Hachiji dachi)

2. Jodan age uke (Hachiji dachi)

3. Chudan soto uke (Hachiji dachi)

4. Gedan barai (Hachiji dachi)

5. Gedan kakiwake uke: Mae geri (Heisoku dachi)

(All kihonwaza are performed to a count—five times each).
 
Choku-zuki is now tested for the new JKA 10th Kyu.

9TH KYU

Kihon

1. Chudan jun zuki (Hachiji dachi—Zenkutsu dachi)

2. Jodan age uke (Hachiji dachi—Zenkutsu dachi)

3. Chudan soto uke (Hachiji dachi—Zenkutsu dachi)

4. Gedan barai (Hachiji dachi—Zenkutsu dachi)

5. Gedan kakiwake uke: Mae geri (Heisoku dachi)

(All kihonwaza performed to a count— five times each).

 

8TH KYU

(a) Kihon

1. Chudan jun zuki

2. Jodan age uke

3. Chudan soto uke

4. Shuto uke (Kokutsu dachi)

5. Mae geri

6. Yoko keage (Heisoku dachi)

(All ido kihon are performed five times each and six times for yoko keage—with alternate legs). Please note, for the 8th kyu test, the ido-kihon are only performed`zenshin’( advancing).

(b) Kata: Taikyoku Shodan

(c) Gohon kumite: Jodan jun zuki, chudan jun zuki
 

Chudan jun zuki is now tested in isolation up until Ikkyu.
7TH KYU

(a) Kihon

1. Chudan jun zuki

2. Jodan age uke

3. Chudan soto uke

4. Chudan uchi uke

5. Shuto uke (Kokutsu dachi)

6. Mae geri

7. Yoko keage (Kiba dachi)

(All ido kihon are performed five times and three times, in each direction, with yoko keage).

(b) Kata: Heian Shodan

(c) Gohon kumite: Jodan jun zuki, chudan jun zuki

 6TH KYU

(a) Kihon

1. Chudan jun zuki

2. Jodan age uke

3. Chudan soto uke

4. Chudan uchi uke

5. Shuto uke (Kokutsu dachi)

6. Mae geri

7. Yoko keage (Kiba dachi)

8. Yoko kekomi (Kiba dachi)

(All ido kihon are performed five times and three times, in each direction, for both yoko keage and yoko kekomi). Also note that jodan age uke and chudan uchi uke are executed moving rearward.

(b) Kata: Heian Nidan

(c) Kihon ippon kumite: Jodan jun zuki, chudan jun zuki

(Please note the attacking order: Migi jodan jun zuki, migi chudan jun zuki, hidari jodan jun zuki then hidari chudan jun zuki).
 
5TH KYU

(a) Kihon

1. Chudan jun zuki

2. Jodan age uke, gyaku zuki

3. Chudan soto uke, gyaku zuki

4. Chudan uchi uke, gyaku zuki

5. Shuto uke (Kokutsu dachi)

6. Mae geri

7. Yoko keage (Kiba dachi)

8. Yoko kekomi (Kiba dachi)

(All ido kihon are performed five times and three times, in each direction, for both yoko keage and yoko kekomi). Also note that jodan age uke kara gyaku zuki  and chudan uchi uke kara gyaku zuki are executed moving rearward.

(b) Kata: Heian Sandan

(c) Kihon ippon kumite: Jodan jun zuki, chudan jun zuki, chudan mae geri

(Please note the attacking order: Migi jodan jun zuki, migi chudan jun zuki, migi chudan mae geri, hidari jodan jun zuki, hidari chudan jun zuki and hidari chudan mae geri). 
Stationary mae-geri is now tested, as is stationary yoko-keage.
4TH KYU


(a) Kihon

1. Chudan jun zuki

2. Jodan age uke, gyaku zuki

3. Chudan soto uke, gyaku zuki

4. Chudan uchi uke, gyaku zuki

5. Shuto uke (Kokutsu dachi), nukite (Zenkutsu dachi)

6. Mae geri

7. Yoko keage (Kiba dachi)

8. Yoko kekomi (Kiba dachi)

(All ido kihon are performed five times and three times, in each direction, for both yoko keage and yoko kekomi). Also note that jodan age uke kara gyaku zuki and chudan uchi uke kara gyaku zuki are executed moving rearward.

(b) Kata: Heian Yondan

(c) Kihon ippon kumite: Jodan jun zuki, chudan jun zuki, chudan mae geri, chudan yoko kekomi

(Please note the attacking order: Migi jodan jun zuki, migi chudan jun zuki, migi mae geri, migi yoko kekomi, hidari jodan jun zuki, hidari chudan jun zuki, hidari mae geri then hidari yoko kekomi).

 

3RD KYU

(a) Kihon

1. Chudan jun zuki

2. Jodan age uke, gyaku zuki

3. Chudan soto uke (Zenkutsu dachi), yoko enpi (Kiba dachi)

4. Chudan uchi uke, gyaku zuki

5. Shuto uke (Kokutsu dachi), nukite (Zenkutsu dachi)

6. Mae geri

7. Ren geri: chudan mae geri, jodan mae geri

8. Yoko keage (Kiba dachi)

9. Yoko kekomi (Kiba dachi)

(All ido kihon are performed three times in each direction). Also note that jodan age uke kara gyaku zuki and chudan uchi uke kara gyaku zuki are executed moving rearward.

(b) Kata: Heian Godan

(c) Kihon ippon kumite (Kiri kaeshi): Jodan jun zuki, chudan jun zuki *

(Please note the attacking order: Migi jodan jun zuki, migi chudan jun zuki, hidari jodan jun zuki then hidari chudan jun zuki). No tai sabaki is permitted.

* Jodan: The attacker initiates with jodan jun zuki and the defender steps back and blocks with jodan age uke. From there, the defender counter attacks with chudan gyaku zuki. The attacker then evades and blocks with gedan barai and finally counters with their own gyaku zuki.

* Chudan: This follows the same pattern as jodan but with mid-attacks and the use of chudan soto uke.
 

The new arrangement of kihon-gata is a significant change.
2ND KYU

(a) Kihon

1. Chudan jun zuki

2. Jodan age uke, gyaku zuki

3. Chudan soto uke (Zenkutsu dachi), yoko enpi, yoko uraken uchi (Kiba dachi)

4. Chudan uchi uke, gyaku zuki

5. Shuto uke (Kokutsu dachi), nukite (Zenkutsu dachi)

6. Mae geri

7. Ren geri: chudan mae geri, jodan mae geri

8. Yoko keage (Kiba dachi)

9. Yoko kekomi (Kiba dachi)

10. Mawashi geri

(All ido kihon are performed three times in each direction). Also note that jodan age uke kara gyaku zuki and chudan uchi uke kara gyaku zuki are executed moving rearward.

(b) Kata: Tekki Shodan

(c) Kihon ippon kumite (Kiri kaeshi): Jodan jun zuki, chudan jun zuki, chudan mae geri *

(Please note the attacking order: Migi jodan jun zuki, migi chudan jun zuki, migi mae geri, hidari jodan jun zuki, hidari chudan jun zuki then hidari mae geri). No tai sabaki is permitted.

* Jodan: The attacker initiates with jodan jun zuki and the defender steps back and blocks with jodan age uke. From there, the defender counter attacks with chudan gyaku zuki. The attacker then evades and blocks with gedan barai and finally counters with their own gyaku zuki.

* Chudan: This follows the same pattern as jodan but with mid-attacks and the use of chudan soto uke.

* Mae geri: Again this follows the same format but naturally utilising gedan barai to defend against the mae geri and to block the defenders gyaku zuki counterattack. 
 

1ST KYU

(a) Kihon

1. Chudan jun zuki

2. Sanbon ren zuki

3. Jodan age uke, gyaku zuki

4. Chudan soto uke (Zenkutsu dachi), yoko enpi, yoko uraken uchi (Kiba dachi)

5. Chudan uchi uke, kizami zuki, gyaku zuki

6. Gedan barai, gyaku zuki

7. Shuto uke (Kokutsu dachi), nukite (Zenkutsu dachi)

8. Mae geri

9. Ren geri: chudan mae geri, jodan mae geri

10. Yoko keage (Kiba dachi)

11. Yoko kekomi (Kiba dachi)

12. Mawashi geri

(All ido kihon are performed three times in each direction). Also note that jodan age uke kara gyaku zuki, chudan uchi uke kara kizami zuki soshite gyaku zuki and chudan shuto uke kara nukite are executed moving rearward.

(b) Kata: Bassai Dai or Kanku Dai (examinees free choice).

(c) Jiyu ippon kumite
 

Enpi and Jion are no longer optional for brown belt exams.
SHODAN

(a) Kihon

1. Sanbon ren zuki

2. Jodan age uke, chudan mae geri, gyaku zuki

3. Chudan soto uke (Zenkutsu dachi), yoko enpi, yoko uraken uchi (Kiba dachi)

4. Chudan uchi uke, kizami zuki, gyaku zuki

5. Shuto uke (Kokutsu dachi), nukite (Zenkutsu dachi)

6. Mae geri

7. Ren geri: chudan mae geri, jodan mae geri

8. Yoko keage (Kiba dachi)

9. Yoko kekomi (Kiba dachi)

10. Mawashi geri

(All ido kihon are performed three times in each direction). Also note that jodan age uke kara mae geri soshite gyaku zuk and chudan uchi uke kara kizami zuki soshite gyaku zuki are executed moving rearward.

(b) Kata: Bassai Dai, Kanku Dai, Enpi or Jion (examinees free choice).

(c) Jiyu ippon kumite

(Please note the attacking order and that only right side attacks are in the exam: Migi jodan jun zuki, migi chudan jun zuki, migi chudan mae geri, migi chudan yoko kekomi and migi chudan mawashi geri).
 

NIDAN

(a) Kihon

1. Kizami zuki, Sanbon ren zuki (free kamae)

2. Mae geri, chudan jun zuki (free kamae)

3. Jodan age uke, chudan soto uke, gyaku zuki (both receptions with the same arm)

4. Ippo sagatte gedan barai, chudan jun zuki, chudan jun zuki (step back with gedan barai then advance with two consecutive jun zuki)

5. Shuto uke (Kokutsu dachi), kizami mae geri, nukite (Zenkutsu dachi)

6. Yoko keage ashi o kaete  yoko kekomi (Kiba dachi)

7. Yoko kekomi, gyaku zuki (free kamae)

8. Mawashi geri, gyaku zuki (free kamae)

(b) Kata: Tokui-gata

(c) Jiyu kumite
While most of the JKA dan examination ido-kihon remains the same there are two minor changes in the shodan-shinsa.



SANDAN

(a) Kihon

1. Kizami zuki, Sanbon ren zuki (free kamae)

2. Jodan age uke, chudan soto uke, gyaku zuki (both receptions with the same arm)

3. Chudan uchi uke (Kokutsu dachi), kizami zuki, gyaku zuki (Zenkutsu dachi)

4. Shuto uke (Kokutsu dachi), kizami mae geri, nukite (Zenkutsu dachi)

5. Ippo sagatte jodan age uke, chudan mawashi geri, yoko uraken uchi, chudan jun zuki (step back with jodan age uke, then advance with the three counterattacks)

6. Mae geri, yoko kekomi, mawashi geri, gyaku zuki (free kamae)

7. Migi chudan mae geri—chudan yoko kekomi—chudan ushiro geri: all three kicks balanced on one leg.

8. Hidari chudan mae geri—chudan yoko kekomi—chudan ushiro geri (same as previous technique but on the opposite `left’ side).

(b) Kata: Tokui-gata

(c) Jiyu kumite

The new JKA syllabus is nothing less than a masterpiece. 
 YONDAN

(a) Kihon

1. Kizami zuki, Sanbon ren zuki (free kamae)

2. Chudan uchi uke (Kokutsu dachi), kizami zuki, gyaku zuki (Zenkutsu dachi)

4. Shuto uke (Kokutsu dachi), kizami mae geri, nukite (Zenkutsu dachi)

5. Mae geri , yoko kekomi (both kicks with the same leg), gyaku zuki (free kamae)


6. Migi chudan mae geri—chudan yoko kekomi—chudan ushiro geri: all three kicks balanced on one leg.


7. Hidari chudan mae geri—chudan yoko kekomi—chudan ushiro geri (same as previous technique but on the opposite `left’ side).
 8. Gyaku zuki (Idomokuhyo: punching at different points by examiner’s direction)
(b) Kata: Tokui-gata and one of the Shitei-gata (a randomly selected Heian or Tekki Shodan)

(c) Jiyu kumite



GODAN

(a) Kihon

Gyaku zuki (Idomokuhyo: punching at different points by examiner’s direction)

(b) Kata: Tokui-gata and one of the Shitei-gata (a randomly selected Heian or Tekki Shodan)

(c) Question and Answer Session

(d) Jiyu kumite
The requirements for JKA Nidan, Sandan and Yondan (and  Godan, which I tested for in Japan last year) have not changed.
 
ROKUDAN

(a) Kata: Tokui-gata and one of the Sentei-gata (a randomly selected kata from Bassai Dai, Kanku Dai, Enpi or Jion)

(b) Question and Answer Session: Research dissertation about technique(s).

(c) Kumite: either Jiyu kumite or Kihon ippon kumite 

 
NANADAN

(a) Kata: Tokui-gata

(b) Question and Answer Session: Research dissertation about technique(s).

(c) Kumite: either Jiyu kumite or Kihon ippon kumite 

 
 HACHIDAN, KUDAN, JUDAN
 
Recommendation of the Japan Karate Association Instructors Committee

(a) Kata: Tokui-gata

(b) Question and Answer Session: Research dissertation about technique(s).

(c) Kumite: Jiyu kumite
Overall, the new syllabus really shows the huge void between the JKA, which emphasises Budo Karate, and sports karate.

 © André Bertel. Aso-shi, Kumamoto. Japan (2014).