I believe the first thing I should do is explain the special significance of this training session to me. This will be the first instructor training session I have participated in for 5 years, indeed the only 3 hour training session in this period. In the intervening time I have had one emergency surgery to save my life and another to save my left leg. As a result, I had some concerns about my fitness and ability to meet my expectations for my grade. The break has however given my persistent knee problems time to settle down.
So, you can imagine that I approached the course with some trepidation and excitement. But one of the joys of any Shikukai training session is getting to see some dear friends, and this course was no exception. There were some notable absences, Stephen and Pam Rawson from Weymouth, Gary Ockwell from Swindon and Rob Selby from Exmouth and their respective students.
The class began with a standing bow to Sensei Sugasawa and the class. The warm-up was taken by Sensei Tim Shaw which challenged many in the room, me included. The notable exceptions were the Chelmsford ladies, the Chelmsford men not so much!
Sensei Tim then, at Sensei’s behest, instructed the class. We began with basics in line starting with simple Junzuki with Mawatte Jodan Nagashi Uke and Mawatte Harai Uke. This progressed on to Junzuki Nido Zuki and Junzuki Nido Zuki, Sonoba Gyaku Jodan Nagashi Uke, Sonoba Zuki. Specific emphasis was placed on the appropriate hip engagement, fluidity of the movement and maintenance of a vertical Sei Chu Sen throughout. I was personally reminded to stay relaxed and maintain a constant height. We subsequently substituted Gaiwan Nagashi Uke for the Jodan Uke in the combination. At Sensei’s instruction we changed the final Junzuki exercise to Nido Jodan Nagashi Uke followed by Sando Zuki.
This was followed by a similar exercise based on Gyakuzuki. We were reminded on the importance of a smooth transition to Gyakuzuki stance when executing “Sonoba Ippon Toru Gyakuzuki”. Gyakuzuki emphasis was on opening the hip before stepping through and eradication of unnecessary up and down or side to side body movement.
I found the floor to ceiling mirrors exceptionally useful in checking my movement. This was complemented by the fact that I was standing behind Stephen Chamberlain and Carol Chatterton giving me a visual queue.
After a short, but much needed break, we continued our work on the upper body and hip movement in a static fighting stance with a basic Juno Jodan Tateken Zuki; again, with emphasis on the appropriate hip movement ensuring the elbow stayed in line with the fist through the extension and pull back. The exercise was executed with no Okuri Ashi movement, so the ballistic power came purely from the hip rotation and the arm. We explored the role of the hip movement when the back hand provided defensive cover to our Sei Chu Sen and when our front hand delivered a follow up Jodan Zuki.
Sensei then instructed in the use and power generated by the hip. He illustrated this with an exercise in fighting stance when the back foot Okuri Ashi was driven exclusively by a Tsuki (Zuki) hip rotation. Initially this was done without any arm involvement until eventually it included a full Tsuki movement.
Sensei Stephen Chamberlain then took the class through Pinan Nidan move by move. Special attention was given to maintaining appropriate Zanshin through the transitional moves. Emphasis was made to the many changes of direction, to ensure the defensive technique was effective through the turn.
Sensei posed a question to the assembled class on the mechanics of Gedan Harai Uke and how that changes when the body is turning during its execution. My understanding was that the body executes contra rotation when performing Gedan Nagashi Harai Uke at rest to energise the arm. But when the body is in motion as with a turn what is the dynamic then? What is the arresting force in the two cases?
In preparation for pair works Sensei Tim had the class practice the techniques to be employed by Tori against a Chudan Zuki in our lines. During this preparation stage the initial emphasis was on the defensive Jun no Naiwan Nagashi Uke. Finally, the offensive technique was included that further opened the hip and drove the up-turned fist Jodan in a move reminiscent of Pinan Godan, before the jump. No emphasis was placed on the defensive Ten-i movement as this is a response to the depth of Uke’s attack and came into the pair work later, but body rotation, Ten-tai and technique, Ten-gi were well illustrated. Also, the economy of movement (Mudana Ugoki) and absence of any tension or unnecessary power (Mudana Chikara) made Sensei Tim’s demonstration highly effective, composed and compact, not something I was able to reproduce.
We then applied the technique in pairs moving up and down the hall in Gyaku Gamae. In pairs the efficiency of the technique became clear. Tori’s defence ensured that while disturbing the balance of Uke by redirecting their attack, it maintained contact and therefore some control over Uke’s punching arm and therefore their posture. Tori’s offensive technique built upon this Kuzushi element with a strike to the face that slid up Uke’s arm (Noru) while deflecting the arm down further compromising Uke’s posture. As a final illustration of Tori’s dominance, a second move was added to the technique that opened up Uke for a follow up technique. Tori moved inside (Uchi) by moving their punching arm to strike to the face with the back hand.
As is so often the case in Wado Ryu the challenge is in the seamless transitions taking two moves with different objectives and performing them as one. The old Wado maths problem 1 + 1 = 1.
I was most fortunate to pair with a dear friend and “proper” sized partner, Mark Gillis. Even though this this meant having his very large fist coming towards my face!
This marked the end of the 3 hour session which, as it turned out, was just a little too short for me and an hour too long for my body.
At the end of the session Sensei thanked everybody for their support throughout the year and emphasised the special bond that we share. Sensei introduced the term Kizuna 絆 which translates as a bond or relationship between individuals which for me is very real.
Sensei also introduce the Japanese word for person Hito, written as 人 The origin of the kanji is to symbolise our interdependence. It shows the two elements can only stand together.
After training the festive spirit set in as a party with food had been arranged at Weybridge Cricket Club.