Thoughts of The Sensei
How long have you been practicing Karate?
A. I took up Karate at the ripe old age of 23 When I took my son James along
to a local Karate club, I like the look of the lesson and decided to stay
for the adults session. That was 12 years ago.
Q. Who has been your greatest inspiration?
A. Without a doubt it would have to be my old Sensei, Jock Mailer.
Unfortunately he passed away a few years back and his passing affected my
training. I felt unable to train until a couple of years later, I was
enticed back by my daughter when she wished to take up Karate. I went along
to watch but couldn't stand by without joining in. When I passed my first
Dan, I went home and drank a whisky to Jock's memory and hoped he had been
watching that evening.
Q. What do you think is the most important part in training?
A. To train hard and to treat every part of practice as though you were
doing it for real. Sloppy practice can be contagious. This is vitally
important when practising Kata. Master Suzuki writes about the six precepts
1.Ikita Kata. Kata must be alive and done with feeling and purpose
2.Inen. Kata must be performed with spirit
3.Chikara no Kyojaku. Kata should be done with changes in application of
power. Technique can be strong or yielding, hard then soft
4.Waza no Kankyu. Kata should be done with variations in the timing of
movement, sometimes fast, sometimes slow
5.Kisoku no Donto. Kata must be done with proper rhythm of breathing, when
to inhale and exhale
6.Balance. Proper balance must be maintained in the performance of Kata
If you can visualise an opponent whilst practicing blocks and strikes, this
will help with focus and power. Practice as though you are actually blocking
strikes and counter attacking whilst they are off balance. Sometimes It is
good to think about what you are blocking and how many uses there are for a
defence. Remember though, just because it looks like a block, it doesn't
have to be a block.
Q. What do you think about Kata in competition
A. Unfortunately, although you can pass the essence of Zanshin over in kata,
many Kata these days are becoming "Stylised" and are focusing on one
defence, if any, rather than a practical teaching aid for which they were
devised. In my opinion, stances and blocks that look "good" are in fact weak
and have serious flaws. Kata is a true teaching method for Kumite. Ideally,
you would be picturing your opponents attack at all times, so if you were in
competition or, heaven forbid, actually having to use Karate for real, you
would have a catalog of defences ready for any attack your opponent will
throw at you.
Q. So do you oppose the teaching of Kumite in your classes.
A No, but it should be controlled at all times to avoid accidents, sometimes
the most easily bruised part on a person is their ego. Heaven knows, mine
has taken the odd battering. Kumite should be built up over time, Firstly
with Sanbon Kumite, then Oyho Kumite, this will help both the attacker and
defender develop timing and as important, Maii (fighting distance)
Q. Do you think of Karate as a sport or an art?
A. Neither, I think of Karate as a way of life. I feel that the Kiai has two
sides, The yin and the yang. There is the hard side that we use in one form
of defence, when we go into a fighting stance or strike an opponent. Then
there is the sadly forgotten soft side which is used by instructors (oddly,
sometimes without them noticing) This has more of a place in everyday
society. It's the voice that keeps us calm in a crisis, that can talk
someone with a hostile attitude into calming down, and can help when
negotiating at work. Using the Kiai in this way can only serve as something
good, calming the body, lowering one's blood pressure and help to "vent
steam" in a stressful modern lifestyle.
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