Yesterday was a great day for Reality Self-Defense Academy and for Sensei Joe Pomfret.
Congratulations to Joe who tested for Yondan and four of his brown belt students who were tested for Shodan.
The test was held at Bob Bethoney's Uechir-ryu Karate Dojo in Pembroke Mass. Sensei Bethoney, Sensei Clarence Wilder, Peter Blackman, Guy Lewis and I comprised the board.
Joe performed Sanseiryu extreemly well and was a great inspiration to his students by the performance of his kata.
Doug Kerr was Joe's opponent for the brilliantly demonstrated Uechi-ryu Karate/Brazillian JuJitsu techniques that Joe has been using very effectively in his NHB bouts. It was however a pleasure to see that Doug was able to use his Uechi-ryu effectively against Joe's attacks. It was clear though that once Joe was on the ground, he was just as comfortable there as he was on his feet. There was no continuation of fighting on the ground however as both fighters were told to break after each takedown and hold was applied. This was a Uechiryu test after all. The match was exciting as both candidates demonstrated their awesome Uechi-ryu skills.
Mr Olsen, a candidate for Yondan from Clarence Wilders dojo, who is fighting a bout with cancer by the way, had the task of sparring with one of Joes students, Mr. Kulibaba. Many times the grappling part of Kulibaba's training took over as he grabbed and held on going for a takedown. This was frustrating to Mr Olsen as he was not used to having his opponent grab and rush him like that. Once you combine both arts it is not easy to separate them even when you are supposed to be demonstrating the striking art for promotional. It was interesting to see how a combination of styles would be accepted by the mostly all Uechi-ryu studying board. I was the only one on the board who also incorporates groundfighting within our curriculum at the BUKA.
I asked Sensei Bethoney how he felt about combining the groundfighting art and the Uechiryu art. He felt that the two definately were complimentary to each other and he was exteremly proud of his star student for his fantastic showing at his NHB fights. However he was concerned that not enough Uechiryu students will take the time to dig deeper into their Uechiryu to look for the movements that compliment the grappling. By studying the grappling they are in effect abandoning some part of their Uechiryu training. He alluded to the comparable way that Doug handled himself against Joe using only Uechiryu.
I felt that Doug did a more than admirable job while sparring with Joe. He once blocked Joe's attack of a front kick with a nice Uechi-ryu grab and sweeping takedown very effectively. However, I also felt that once the fight went to the ground, if allowed to continue, Doug was definately out of his league. I believe we are only seeing the beginning of the marriage of Uechi-ryu and groundfighting in the Dan Promotionals. Now that Joe is a Yondan, and will be sitting on this board, I see more and more acceptance of BJJ and grappling being applied to the test.
The surprise of the day was the two women who went up for Shodan from Joes dojo. They put on an excellant display of sparring in the Uechi way with very little grappling and almost all stand up fighting techniques. Even though they were from the same school, and had more than likely sparred with each other many times before, they fought a good tough match with each other demonstrating effective offensive and defensive techniques.
All three candidates for Yondan, Mr. Kerr, Mr Olsen, and Mr Pomfret were so impressive that the board could not distinguish between them for Most Valuable Candidate. Each one was special in their own way. Joe is well know for his NHB bouts and his cross training in BJJ. Mr. Olsen is currently fighting cancer and should be commended for his dedication to training in Uechiryu. Mr Kerr is also a great Uechiryu practitioner who made us proud to see him demonstrate that good Uechiryu Karate is very hard to defeat.
Congratulations to Joe for his promotion to Yondan and for promoting the first students from the Reality Self Defense Academy to Shodan.
Congratulations to these three new Yondans and four new Shodans of Uechiryu.