“Thanking you and all the members again for what they have done for me and to Shikukai for all those years.”
Prior to the commencement of training Mokuto was observed in memory of the late Peter Suzuki Sensei and Shingo Ohgami Sensei who had both passed away recently. This was followed by the presentation to Teresa Claxton of her 1st Dan Certificate and Shikukai embroidered Black Belt.
After a short warm up taken by Pam Rawson, the session commenced with basics lead by Steve & Pam Rawson Senseis. Emphasis was placed on moving correctly between stances, focusing on the interaction between Junzuki/Gyakuzuki/Junzuki No Tsukkomi and Gyakuzuki No Tsukkomi. Techniques were performed in various directions with the importance of keeping the correct Sei Chu Sen emphasized throughout. The students were then paired up and practised drills involving Tobikomi Nagashizuki and Ayumi Ashi Nagashizuki.
Following a short break the class was split into three groups – 2nd Dan and above, 3rd Kyu to 1st Dan and 4th Kyu and below. The Seniors worked with Tim Shaw Sensei who took them through Ni Sei Shi kata in detail, with interesting comparisons in the various versions of the kata. Steve & Pam Rawson Senseis introduced the brown belts and 1st Dans to Chinto kata. For many of them this was their first attempt at getting to know the kata. The lower grades trained under the direction of Tim Dixon Sensei. They worked on Kihon, improving their kicking technique, followed by Pinan Nidan and Pinan Shodan, finishing off with basic Taisabaki in simple pairworks.
Throughout the training Sensei Sugasawa kept a watchful eye and moved among the various groups, giving his personal instruction. A Kyu grading was held after training with five candidates being successful.
The venue for the Saturday night social was The Pheasant Inn, Chippenham, where good food and company ensured a pleasant evening as always.
Being Remembrance Sunday, the next day’s training began with Mokuto. Tim Shaw Sensei lead the warm up and the class was then divided into two halves, facing each other across the Dojo, so that the junior grades could watch the techniques of the Seniors. Kihon practice commenced with Naihanchi stance, moving on to Junzuki, Gyakuzuki, Junzuki No Tsukkomi and Gyaku No Tsukkomi, concentrating on correct body shift. Nagashi movement was then covered, moving both forward and backwards.
After a short break the class was split into three groups as on the previous day. Steve & Pam Rawson Senseis lead the Seniors session on the finer points of Seishan kata, emphasizing how important it was to understand and perform the correct movements, particularly when instructing, as students will inevitably copy their Instructor’s technique. This was followed by Kihon Gumite practice. The students were asked to perform Kihons 1 to 10 without pausing or resetting in between, which was invaluable in getting them to think and react quickly.
Carol Chatterton Sensei & Tim Dixon Sensei worked with the middle group on Naihanchi Kata and Kumite Gata (Jodan Soto Uke and Uchi Uke.) Tim Shaw Sensei took the junior grades through a detailed explanation of Pinan Yondan Kata. As before, Sensei Sugasawa continued his observation of the different groups, imparting his specialist knowledge.
All too soon, time was up. Sensei Sugasawa thanked everyone for their involvement, in particular Carol, Ian & the Chippenham Club for hosting another very successful and enjoyable course.
The distinctive Shikukai logo/badge and the colour associated with it has an interesting backstory.
I recently had a long conversation with Sugasawa Sensei our chief instructor, and as author of the Shikukai logo in its current form, he is better placed than many to tell the story.
Sensei explained that all Japanese universities placed a great importance upon their Old Boys/Girls associations, these are similar to our university and schools Alumni associations, but seem to be so much more active and carry a greater kudos.
In this case the name ‘Shikukai’ is associated with the Old Boy/Girl group connected to Sensei’s old university in Tokyo, this is Meiji University.
The importance of the colour.
For many of the Japanese universities colour holds a great significance as a brand identifier. The Meiji colour is quite unique and is best described as a kind of purple/navy blue, difficult to pin down in the normal western spectrum. This is the same colour found on our Shikukai badge.
I asked Sensei where this colour tradition came from? He was unsure, but suspected it might have come from the Ōendan 応援団 , these are the cheerleading squads, they fulfil a similar purpose as what Americans call ‘cheerleaders’ but tend to be much more robust, noisy and, Sensei suggested, even aggressive, as well as being mostly male dominated (although in more recent times Meiji appointed a woman as leader (Dancho) of the cheerleading group).
These groups held a lot of power within the university structure, as well as promoting group rivalry they were often called in to act as mediators when disputes between different university sports teams broke out.
The characters (Kanji).
Breaking the name into three parts, each with their own Kanji, Sensei explained that these kanji are quite nuanced and take on different meanings when juxtaposed or adjacent to other characters. There seem to be overt and obvious meanings, but also meanings by association or subtle implication.
The first character which we pronounce as ‘Shi’ at the most obvious level describes that very unique Meiji colour, which in Japanese is known as ‘Murasaki’, the character is the same, but when associated with the other characters it becomes ‘Shi’.
This character also has the suggestion of the courageousness associated with the Bushi, and because of the colour connection, Sensei thinks that it may also refer to a small section of the wording of the Meiji university song, a part that refers to a ‘blue sky’.
The second character is ‘Ku’.
This is the same character we see as ‘kara’ in ‘karate’ and it takes on the meaning of ‘empty’, but also ‘sky’ (as in ‘open sky’) ‘sky’ in Japanese is ‘sora’ and in this instance is a reference to the elemental relationship between the sky and the ocean. Thus ‘Ku’ refers to the openness of the great expanse.
The final Shikukai character is much easier to explain, as ‘Kai’ is just ‘Group’.
The distinctive shield shaped purple (Murasaki) and white Shikukai badge, which was designed by Sugasawa Sensei is based upon the Meiji University logo. If divided vertically into three parts, the central strip for us uses the full kanji described above, but the Meiji version would just say ‘Daigaku’ which is ‘University or College’. For both our Shikukai logo and the university logo the outer thirds are stylised versions of the characters that read ‘Meiji’. Thus, any Japanese person noticing our Gi badge may well recognise it as originating from Meiji University.
To me it is clear that a large part of Sensei’s identity is wrapped up in his experiences and loyalty to his old university. Also, it is not inconsequential that the second grandmaster of Wado Ryu, Otsuka Hironori II, was also an Old Boy of Meiji University, with a long association with the Meiji karate club. Also, Meiji is proud to have had a long relationship, going way back, with the original grandmaster, Otsuka Hironori.
 Sensei told me that the colour for the Nichidai university is a kind of white/pink, which he believes is associated with the cherry blossom.
At the beginning of 2020 the thought of karate training online was not something Steve and I had considered, but as the pandemic drew on, it became clear that something would have to be done to keep us all in touch and maintain our training in whatever form we could.
Our first session using Zoom was somewhat trial and error. We had originally hoped to do it outside, using an I-Pad but that didn’t work so we cleared surplus furniture out of our study and used the computer instead.
We quickly learned what ideas would work and what wouldn’t due to lack of space and internet quality. It soon became clear that the normal lesson style involving student correction was not practicable and a different approach had to be found.
We would divide each session into short sections, each covering a different aspect and developing a theme over a few weeks. Shikukai students have embraced this new approach to training, which in turn has given the Shikukai senior instructors the opportunity to run sessions, including Instructor Courses.
On Saturday 7th November Steve and I held a general Zoom training, where over 30 students of all grades joined in for 90 minutes of hard training. Sugasawa Sensei joined the session and as ever, maintained his watchful eye over proceedings.
The session began with a recap of Meoto-te and Jodan/Chudan/Gedan areas of attack/defence. For the past few weeks I have been explaining to the students how the Kanji readings and meanings of karate terminology are interlinked. The example I used on Saturday was the “Chu” 中 in chudan being the same Kanji as the “Chu” in Sei Chu Sen (literally “correct centre line”). Punching, striking, covering, blocking and kicking techniques were combined in a variety of ways to exercise both mind and body.
During this session, we reminded students of the three main principles of punching, as reiterated by Sensei Sugasawa on a previous Zoom course.
During a short break for rehydration, I gave a brief explanation on the main points to consider whilst practising Kata. Pinan Godan was then covered for the benefit of the junior grades, followed by an in-depth look at Chinto. This was broken down into sections of four to six techniques, each section being practised several times before moving on to the next. Once completed, the sections were all put together, culminating in the complete kata.
We then moved on to pair work, (including I-dori) which involved practice of the earlier principles, but without the physical presence of a partner. It was commendable to see the students learning the pairs techniques in this way.
Steve and I would like to thank Sensei and Shikukai students for supporting the Zoom sessions run by us and the other Seniors. We know it is not ideal, but at least we can all continue learning and training.
The worldwide pandemic continues to affect all of our lives and I am sure that we are all experiencing degrees of uncertainty, which impacts significantly on our well-being and our livelihoods. Experts have mentioned how consistency and regular routines are key to maintaining a healthy level of general wellbeing. I would like to think that in some way the Shikukai community has been able to supply that consistency, albeit through circuitous routes.
In a very practical way we have been able to keep secure contact with all of our members and also bring on-board new members; something we are keen to do.
The Zoom events have proved popular and have certainly not interrupted our Instructor Course programme. The challenges involved in presenting and sharing high quality training through the medium of Zoom has actually opened up new possibilities, as the instructors rise to the test and present new and old ideas in ever more interesting and innovative ways. The most recent instructors course involved three separate presentations of training patterns, concepts and ideas delivered by the most senior Shikukai instructors, with Sugasawa Sensei joining in and adding comments when necessary. These sessions have also given Shikukai members outside of the UK chance to join in with the programme, and in a way has drawn us all closer together. All of these Zoom sessions come completely free of charge.
We have also been presenting Zoom sessions targeting kyu grades, hosted by Sensei Carol Chatterton, Tim Dixon and Richard Barham; these have proved to be very popular as each instructor has a wealth of experience behind them.
Access to these sessions can be found through the Shikukai Members and Clubs Facebook page.
In addition, many of our clubs are steadily beginning to open up and return to face-to-face training. We have all been working hard to stay within Covid-secure guidelines and have been developing different strategies and ever-more devious ways of enriching our training, despite the lack of the up-close and personal necessities of pair training and sparring. It is the creativity of the instructors and the student’s response that unwittingly has produced a wider range of possibilities, which in-turn enriches the broader experience of the complexities of Wado as a system. I genuinely believe that when we finally emerge into some form of ‘normality’ the students who have engaged with these opportunities will not feel that the lock-down and restrictions plunged their training into a period of hibernation or regressive stagnation, but instead they will feel enriched and invigorated by new layers of understanding and application.
It is with great pleasure that Sugasawa Sensei would like to announce the Tokubetsu Shoudan awards for 2020. These promotion are rare and unique events within Shikukai Karate-Do International and the recipients have been honoured with promotions following the prescribed guidelines and constitutional requirements of the organisation.
Huge congratulations to all.