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PostPosted: Sun May 02, 2004 2:33 pm 
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We sang Happy Birthday to Sensei Uechi - our visit fell on his special day...4/18/04 Karen Yuro


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 Post subject: Sunday April 18th con't.
PostPosted: Sun May 02, 2004 6:20 pm 
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You're absolutely right. It was his birthday. What a nice guy for hosting all of us on that day.

-----------------------

The Gardens we visited were the Shikina-En gardens a "designated national place of scenic beauty". This location was the second largest residence for the Ryukyu roayl families and foreign guests. It was constructed near the end of the 18th century. It has several circular paths, traditional buildings, and arch stone bridges over the pond. The plants compliment Okinawa's four seasons. It was completely destoryed in WWII and restoration began in 1975.
Image

There were several signs up along the fences warning you to be on the lookout for "habu". Okinawan snakes - often venomous, and often stuck into a jar of awamori for that extra special kick to your drink!


After a buffet lunch our other stop for the day was the Okinawan prefectual museum. The brochure says:

"During the Battle of Okinawa in WWII many lives were lost and most of the cultural assets were destoryed in what was called the "Typhoon of Steel." From the ruin, the US Navy Military Government and private volunteer groups established the Okinawa Exhibition Hall in August of 1945. Laster, with the transfer of Okinawa to civilian government, what was begun as the Higashionna Museum was finally established at he Okinawa Prefectual Museum."

The museum contained pottery, tools, clothing, masks, examples of the wildlife, and recreations showing Okinawan traditions for cooking, funerary, entertainment, and arts.

Sunday evening was our first chance for real respite since the trip started. After a nap and a shower our room of our headed out to find dinner. We ended up at a nice little restaurant in Chatan Town center. Our meal included gilled eel, fermented "mountain potatoes" (some sort of tuber,) chicken wings stuffed with pork dumpling stuffing, fried fish, yakisoba - of two different kinds, and our first Sake Cocktails. The two flavors chosen by the group were plumb and Okinawan lime. They were cool and delicious! During the meal we figured out that this was actually a restaurant that a group had visited on Wednesday evening after their workout. I think it was the group that visited Machita's dojo.

After dinner we wandered around to a few shops, picked up some postcards and then found our way back to the hotel. We needed our rest - we still had a very full weeking of training, sightseeing, and another demonstration.

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Last edited by Dana Sheets on Sat May 08, 2004 1:59 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Sun May 02, 2004 11:00 pm 
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Hey Dana ... Great journal ... I doubt if any of us could improve on your notes! If I ever come out of this fog, I will try to compile the notes from my group's dojo visits. The MI group ended up not getting back until around 11 pm, due to an accident on I-94. The limo from O'Hare took forever routing & rerouting from Indian thru Illinois until we finally arrived at Michigan City for another 1 1/2 hours drive home!

Everyone, Dana was the virtual energizer bunny... great & explosive katas! Yes, the memories are worth a million lifetimes. I am so proud and honored to have been a part of history.

We were blanketed over the media so much in Okinawa that I had people come up to me at Starbucks (which I didn't find until the LAST DAY!) and point/imitate karate moves and draw a box (TV Set) at me...

Without even consulting my notes, I am struck by the graciousness of all the people. Their willingness to show us how we could be even better with our particular character posture with just a few adjustments; the kindness shown in welcoming us to their dojos & homes, the joy at sharing knowledge with like minds/spirits, etc. etc. The senseis went out of their way to make us feel welcome. Tomoyose Sensei's first remarks were "Welcome Home Girls..."

I feel truly blessed to have been a part of this all.

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PostPosted: Mon May 03, 2004 1:41 pm 
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Good morning ladies. This is a great narrative. Did you get to meet Toyama and Breyette senseis? Perhaps I missed that in your discussion but if not I'd be interested in hearing about them.
Regards, Rich

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PostPosted: Mon May 03, 2004 6:22 pm 
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Yes - we did get to visit Toyama Sensei's dojo and Breyette Sensei was there. It's coming. I think we went Tuesday or Wednesday of the second week. I'm back at work now so I can't write during the day - hope to make an entry on Monday's events before class tonight.

Dana

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PostPosted: Mon May 03, 2004 10:26 pm 
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Hey Jackie,

Glad you made it home safe. Yep - there's still cobwebs in my brain as well. Still just seems like I'm going in slow motion somehow.

Jackie was a wonderfully kind and centering presence on our journey. With the exception of one comical moment on my camera - she always seems to have a smile on her face and in her heart. It was truly a pleasure to get to meet you Jackie!

------------------------

Workout #9 Okikukai HQ

And we're back!!!

Sanchin - crescent step should go at least through your center line if not more, my left arm kept insisting on striking just wide. And one of our members was shown a modification for the bushiken strike - if you're thumb knuckle gives you trouble - strike with the flat of your thumb between the first and second knuckle. It seemed to work for that teacher - when I tried it at home it worked pretty well. Not as penetrating...but also not quite as risky.

The forward rising buskikens in Seisan should be elliptical - not a circle and not straight up. They shouldn't start too low either - not all the way down by the belt - more like from the solar plexus.

Heather had one teacher tell her that the bushiken should always line up in the same plane as the index finger. I had other teachers show me to tuck the thumb more into the palm. When in Rome...

This was also the day I had a bit of a long chat about circle blocks with some senior teachers.

We all know hiraken (hira - flat, ken - knuckle) from hojo-undo.

Now it turns out that the full name for the circle block isn't just one name.
There is one name to describe one ending position for the circle block and another name to describe another ending position.

hirate mawashi uke
hira=flat, te=hand, mawashi=circle, uke=block

hirate mawashi uke ends with your hands in what I've often called "post" position. Or what also seems to be called hirate kamae (flat hand ready fight). If you're in your sanchin arm thrusting position then you're in sanchin kamae.

This version of the circle block - where both hands end evening - is called mawashi uke in short-hand.

hirate mawashi uke morote bushiken
hira=flat, te-hand, mawashi=circle, uke=block, morote=double, bushi=thumb, ken=knuckle.

This is the technique seen in sanchin kata after the step-offs. When you complete this version of the circle block- your hands are ending in two different positions - one hight and one low - and it is called wauke in short-hand.

Now - in the higher kata (seiryu, konchin, sanseiryu) there is a circular technique performed in a cat stance. According to what I wrote down during this training session the name of that technique is:
wauke neko ashi dachi
according to the above discussion - that means the full name of the technique is:

hirate mawashi uke morote bushiken neko ashi dachi

Which means that the ending position -- your hands are at the same height they are when you retract and strike in sanchin kata (one high and one low) you just happen to be doing the move from a cat stance instead of from a sanchin stance and you're showing the placement of the strikes instead of doing the strikes.

Again - you're doing your sanching wauke - you're just not pulling your hands back to retract - you're letting them in in the position they come to after you strike. When you finish your technqiue in any of the higher kata - if you drop your front leg back into sanchin and pull your arms back - you should find your hands to be at the correct height to do a double bushiken thrust.

During this discussion - which included Jack and Peggy and Mr. Inada and Mr. Takara - the big blue book was consulted. Mr. Inada confirmed the names of the techniques. It's just that the bushiken strike isn't shown.

It's still not clear to me why this technique is done in a cat stance and why the thursts aren't shown if it's the same technique as sanchin. I usually think of cat stances as transitional stances - meaning that whatever the arms are doing has a whole lot to do with what the legs are doing and somebody's center should be being pulled completely off balance. (Ideally it is not my own center of balance but the opponents).

I've often said that one thing that really frustrates me in Uechi is that Kanbun Uechi Sensei spoke Hogen, not Japanese, and learned the names of the techniques in Chinese. The techniques weren't really named until the 1950s or so. However - it was a good discussion and a very interesting correction.

My personal correction on the wauke neko ashi dachi what that my front foot hand was ending too low. This entire disucssion ensued when I asked how I was to find the proper position.

After the workout we were in for a real treat. Mr. Tomoyose was going to give a lecture on the history of karate...and he'd brought along Uechi Guza for us to taste.

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Last edited by Dana Sheets on Thu May 20, 2004 7:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu May 06, 2004 6:29 pm 
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Following our workout were set up some chairs, set up a table for Mr. Tomoyse and got ready to listen. Mr. Tomoyose was asked to speak to us about the history of Uechi-Ryu and to answer our questions.

What follows is NOT A TRANSCRIPT. It is my adaptation of my notes into something that makes sense. Any mistakes are MINE. Not Mr. Tomoyose's.


Our style is not only sports - more spiritual arts. Today - modern days - kumite tends to be understood as a technique for killing others. This is not it! It is a technique to save the lives of others. Not kill.

Don't rush in your learning - good technique and accuracy are important. Listen to your teachers. Don't force your students to learn. Take the time and give them the time to make good karate.

{There was a small bottle of brown liquid in the table where Mr. Tomoyose sat. One woman asked him about the liquid - we had heard that Mt. Tomoyse was going to bring a sample of the Uechi herb or Uechi Gusa}

This is medicine brought by Kanbun Uechi from China. He planted the plan from China in a pot and brought the plant with him. There are many herbs today. Uechi Gusa - Uechi herbs - nobody knos anymore exactly how to make the medicine. Much of it has alcohol.

{After the lecture we all tasted a bit of the Uechi Gusa - it was mostly alcohol, Okinawa Whiskey, and had a slightly bitter taste}

Everybody in Okinawa has experienced this - sometimes when you're hit hard and you can't take adeep breathe - you will take a small cupful. By the next day you will feel better.

I've been given two hours to talk with you about the history of Uechi. I have a little to say - and then maybe you'll ask me questions and together we can fill the time.

Kanbun Uechi was born in 1877 on May 1st. At age 19 he left Okinawa for China - there he stayed 13 years. During that time he worked so hard to master karate. In those 10 years he learned only 3 kata. The kata meant so much to him. Nowadays young kids can't bear to do this.

For example - I begged Sensei to teach me. For three months I did the opening movement of sanchin three times. And that was it. We were done for the day. He never gave me any more stuff. After three months, then he taught me sanchin.

He never taught Seisan until after one year of Sanchin. It really took perserverence.

Kanbun Uechi was very tight with his money. It became his habit duing his stay in China - he had to. He knew noone in China, he had noone to support him other than himself.

When he opened a karate school in Wakayam Prefecture in 1924 - he'd only been on mainland Japan for two years. It wasn't Kanbun's idea to open the school. It was Tomoyose's father's idea for him to open the school. Tomoyose's father called the other men - come over to Kanbun's house. Thirty people came - and each brought maybe 5 yen each to pay for one month of karate training. With 30 people paying 5 yen it would mean about 150 yen/month. This was Big Money in those days. Kanbun had been working as a janitor for the textile mill. So Kanbun agreed to teach. He was at the Wakayama Dojo from 1924 until 1946.

Kanbun was a very nice person - he couldn't speak Japanese fluently - but he was very fluent in Chinese. One day a chinese guy visited his home. The Chinese guy was from the Taiwanese nationals guard - he had come to buy steel scraps. I couldn't believe how well Kanbun spoke Chiniese. I think the perhaps the Chinese man who came to visit Kanbun was from Fukien province.

There are many talented masters in our organization today. When you are young you eagerly look forward, but as you age your ten to look back. You can still get something out of these old guys. May you can even just pick up an anecdote from the past.

For example - one day some Hawaiians came to Mr. Tomoyose and Kanei Uechi and asked them to teach them. But they didn't really want to be taught - they wanted to fight. So Kanei fought with him - but he never hit him - he only blocked. After several minutes the Hawaiian knelt down on the ground - tired. "G0DMAMNIT! He shouted - you blocked every hit!" After that the Hawaiians started to train Uechi.

{We asked Mr. Tomoyose who was the first woman to train Uechi}

Toyama Sensei's sister was the first woman to train in Uechi-ryu - she started studying around 1954 or 55.

{We asked what was the biggest change in karate.}

The Biggest change - was Bruce Lee and Enter the Dragon - after that movie the techniques be came more widely known and there were more various movements.

{My notes from here forward are a little fuzzy for me to read - I was starting to hit a jet-lag wall during the lecture. -Dana}

Izumi is the area where Kanei lived with his mother and the area where Mr. Takara was born. Mr. Iraha - Itokazu Sensei - were students of Kanei Uechi when he opened a school in mainland Japan. They were together in the same labor camp.

Tomoyose and Iraha called Kanei to teach in Futema from Nago. Kanei would come from Nago to a rented house in Futema to teach - he would come by bicycle. The bicycle trip was almost 15 kilometers. Since the drive was so far - Iraha and Tomoyose built a house for him and his family in Futema and they moved there.


War impacted karate - during wartime most Okinawans were forced to join the Hapanese army. Today it is the same. The way we were taught - we had no fear to die from anything. Education will change you. In those days when they called I had no fear to die. Many of my classmates carried bombs on their backs - they would crawl under the tanks and blew up themselves.


Before the war karate was taught in secret. Just before the war Karate was taught in all the schools - en masse. That changed how karate was taught.
Ryuko taught a small group of students.

In 1953 or 54 - Those days Uech-Ryu was not known by many people. We tried to show all Okinawans how great our system was. At every demonstration they would do a demo where people would break 10 ceramic roof tiles. Only two people could break the tiles on all the islands. Kanei Uechi told the students they were going to break the tiles. He showed them how to break a couple of days before the demonstration. Then when the Uechi people got on the stage - all of them could break all the tiles. The people in the audience saw the break and in 10 years Uechi was teh biggest style on the island.

Kanei once asked Ryuko why toe kicks? He said to watch how a baby crawls -he uses his toes. That is why. I suggest you try to build up your toe conditioning. At one time there were many Uechi-ka who could break with their toes. Now there are few. A good way to start is to fill a cardboard box with newspaper. Kick the box every day.

{At this point Mr. Yonamine got up to show how he conditions his toes}

Mr. Yonamine kicks the dojo floor with his toes, he stands up on his big toe and walks on it. He said it was easier to walk forward - walking backwards on your big toe is very difficult. He hits his toes with a long dowel rod and he also uses tires and bamboo. He suggests that you start walking on your toe on the dirt because it is softer.

{Mr. Tomoyose was asked what he thought about women in karate.}

When I was young - I was told that karate is not so good for women. Because women must have children. Now we know today that karate can help make everyone strong. That strong stomach muscles can help women carry their babies. So karate is good for everyone.

**********
After the lecture we were able to visit for a short amount of time, take pictures, and eat some more yummy Okinawan donughts!

In a few hours we would be getting ready for the evening workout. Four dojo were being visited that evening. I was part of a group that went to visit Mr. Ken Nakamatsu's dojo.

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PostPosted: Fri May 07, 2004 6:14 pm 
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Dana Sheets wrote:
{At this point Mr. Yonamine got up to show how he conditions his toes}

Mr. Yonamine kicks the dojo floor with his toes, he stands up on his big toe and walks on it. He said it was easier to walk forward - walking backwards on your big toe is very difficult.


Hi Dana,

Can you provide an additional description of how Master Yonamine walked on his toes? I can't quite envision the scene.

Was he able to balance solely with his toes on the floor (like Barishnikov) or did he also carry some of his weight on the balls of his feet? Were his toes pulled back like he would for a sokusen?

Thanks,

Rob


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PostPosted: Sat May 08, 2004 1:21 am 
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Hi Rob -

He walked on the tips of his first two or three toes - they were a little bent - but no part of the rest of his foot was touching the ground. He took 5-6 steps on the floor of the dojo. Mr. Yonamine is not a young man. I suspect at one point in his life he could walk further. It was impressive.

---------------------

Workout #10 - Monday Evening

Monday Evening a few of us were headed for Mr. Nakamatsu's dojo. Others went to the Chatan Dojo, the Ginowan Dojo, and the Tobaru Dojo.

Mr. Nakamatsu's dojo is very well appointed. It has a austere quality - but it is still inviting and beautiful. Four of his students - including his son Tai'ichi were present.

After warming up we started with sanchin. Stand perfectly straight with your hips in a natural position. Now turn your heels outward. Now twist the heels into Sanchin - this will make enough tension in the legs, make a natural bend in your knees, and bring your hips underneath you to the correct position.

Keep the chest open. If you close the chest too much it becomes more difficult to move your arm at the shoulder. Your arm and shoulder should be very relaxed when you move. The power will come from your waist - not your shoulder. You must try to coordinate all your body movements with your waist. {When Mr. Nakamatsu is talking about your waist he's talking about everything below your navel to the inguinal crease on the front and to the end of the glutes on the back. When I talk about "compress the body" this means tightening everything that doesn't antagonize the movement you're about to do. So if you're going to strike with your arm - you'll compress your legs, torso, glutes, back, stomach, lats - everything except the arm.}

Drill 1)
Stand in a neutral stance - bring your elbow back and down to the retracted position, now drive the hip forward with the elbow, when the elbow clears the bodyline forward - forcefully compress your muscles and snap your hips under. Alternate left side, right side. Don't worry about making a full strike. Just let your snap bring your elbow to sanchin. Go ahead and let your hands be relaxed. You're trying to coordinate the movement of your waist and time the transfer of power from the explosion of your waist to the forward progression of your elbow.

We did this for about 10-15 minutes. Then he invited us to watch his students do the training for a couple of minutes. It was impressive. They did the same drill - just striking to post position. I thought the explosion was impressive then. However - when they started doing full sanchin strikes my jaw hit the floor. I couldn't see their hands move. I'd see them retract - then I'd see their body start to compress - and then like magic their arm was fully extended. Honest to God. I've got pretty quick eyes - and I just couldn't see their hands move. When Tai'ichi did the drill I could barely see his waist move. This to me is the magic of the exaggeration training. You start big, figure out how your body moves, and then slowly over time reel the movements back in until they are imperceptible. {Are my biases showing? :D}

Drill 2) Circle Block
This is not going to translate well into text, but I'll try.
Stand in a neutral stance and have your arm out in front at a 45 degree angle. In a very relaxed motion bring your arm up and across your body until your arm is almost shoulder height with your palm facing outward. You can use your other hand as a guide by holding it straigt out from your shoulder. The arm doing the circle block comes up to the height of the arm you're holding straight out. Then compress the body and drop the elbow into Sanchin. Your elbow shouldn't move much and should stay well within your bodyline. Mostly the compression of your waist is bringing your forearm up to post position. You'll finish in the flat hand post position but a little higher than usual. Don't worry about the strength of your block. Just try to coordinate your waist with the arm. The waist makes the power.

Drill 3) Single Sanchin Arm thrust - but only to post
Stand in Sanchin dachi.
You're basically doing the same drill as #1 but now you're in sanchin and you've got your hand open and fingers straight. To help keep you rubbing your elbow close to the body try twisting the palm of your hand away from your body. Later - when you can keep the elbow close to the body you won't need to turn your hand. Let the arm swing back and forth loosely and naturally a few times to feel your natural swing. Now coordinate the swinging of your arms with the movement of your waist. Finally - add the compression of the body and snapping under of your hips. Start by only striking to sanchin position - this keeps you from putting too much strain on your elbow. This also keeps you focused on the connection between your waist movement and your elbow/shoulder instead of focusing on the target for your hand. Later - when you've coordinated your waist, body, and your arm - then you can do full sanchin strikes and work on your targeting. For now - just work on coordinating your body.

When you first start doing this kind of training you're going to have tons of extra movement. It takes awhile for your body to learn how to coordinate everything to make the explosion. It takes an equal amount of time for your body to learn how to stop after the explosion. Try not to worry about everything moving too much when you start. Once you can make the explosive power - then you can learn how do it without the extra movement.

Drill 4) Double Bushikens
Stand in Sanchin. Let both your arms swing back and forth in a natural way with no power. Try to feel the rythm of how YOUR arms swing. Now begin to coordinate the swing of your arms with the compression of your body. Just like the single thrusts - when your elbow clears your body line - snap your hips underneath as you compress. At first, don't worry so much about the targeting of your arms - just strike until your elbows are in sanchin. When you can coordinate your whole body with the double strikes, then let your arms extend out and work on your targeting. Targeting is secondary to building your coordination. This same drill can be used for the double sanchin arm thrusts.

Drill 5) Side Thrust Kick
If anybody else can describe this drill - please do. Basically we'd do a slide step up - as you pick up the kicking let you use the power of the slide step to twist your hips up and away to get ready for the kick - and then you'd thrust. I was honestly terrible at it and I'm not really sure what was going on. Sorry.

After these drills we were asked to do Sanchin and then a few Kanshiwa kata so he could see how we were implementing the body movements into the kata. Mr. Nakamatsu would demonstrate movements he felt we should work on for better timing. Just like his son - I couldn't see his hands move. He'd retract in a very relaxed way and then BAM! - his strike would be out there. Again - very impressive.

I think we finished up with Seisan - but I'm not sure.

Afterwards the dojo was cleaned and the food was brought up. Mrs. Nakmatsu joined us for the dinner. We had wonderful sushi, yakitori, and very tasty cake. It was a wonderful evening. And I have much to train - I can still see my hands when I strike. :wink:

The next morning the vans were going to pick us up and take us to the famed Shureido Martial arts supply store and then shopping on Gate 2 street. Tuesday evening would be our visit to Toyama's dojo and Miyagi's dojo.

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PostPosted: Sat May 08, 2004 2:12 pm 
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Shopping!

First stop was Shureido Martial Arts Supply. This little storefront was completely filled by the full compliment of women and advisors on the tour. Many people had placed orders in advance for gi and belts. Others were there to place orders that we'd hope would be done by the time we left. But we had less than week left on our trip. Many of us picked up t-shirts, training towels, weapons, weapon covers, books, and other martial arts accoutrement

After about an hour we got back on the buses to head to Gate 2 Street. This has been a famous shopping district for many years. However - like many places - Okinawa has started creating shopping malls. So many of the independent family shops are closing their doors in the face of corporate competition.

However - they're not all closed yet!

Bingata is the traditional Okinawan fabric - beautiful patterns of dragons and sea life and animals. Several women were able to purchase small items made of bingata fabric or kimono done in the style.

Tea sets, chopsticks, fans, scarves, jewelry (purple jade!), hair clips, sake sets, awamori sets and pourers, ties, patches, trinkets, clocks, plates, and Shisa dogs. Lots and lots of Shisa dogs. It was also worth it to travel around from shop to shop to see who had the better deal.

I ended up with several pairs of dogs, a naidan - or doorway fabric hanging thingy, a teaset, chopsticks, and other little items. Most of what I bought are gifts for friends and family.

After lunch and more shopping we caught a taxi back to the hotel. I had a nice nap - and we were leaving fairly early - we had a bit of a drive to Toyama's dojo and we wanted to be ready.

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PostPosted: Wed May 12, 2004 6:44 pm 
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It was a beautiful evening. Perfect weather and a little breeze to blow away the humidity. We were scheduled to meet up in the parking lot of a shrine and then go down to Toyama Sensei's dojo as a group. Well it turns out that there were two parking lots of for the shrine - half of us ended up at one and half at another. So there was a delay. But we eventually worked it out and made our way down to his home.

I believe we were greeted by Toyama sensei's wife and a couple of other family members along with Mr. Toyama. Then we were invited inside. Mr. Toyama's dojo is only small if you're trying to fit 30 women, 20 of his karateka, guests, friends, and observers. We were sitting together as closely as we could so that there would be space for him to show us things.

We had been told ahead of time that we were there for a question and answer session. That there wouldn't (and there wasn't) enough room for all of us to workout.

Master Toyama was incredibly welcoming and gracious to us. Sumako, Mr. Gordi Breyette's wife, acted as our translator. Gordi was also there and welcomed us into the dojo.

{I later found out that some of the students of Toyama Sensei and Breyette Sensei had prepared a demonstration for us - sadly we had to depart before they were able to give the demonstration. I hope the children and adults who had worked so hard to prepare the demo understood that we definitely wanted to see them - we simply ran out of time.}

Mr. Toyama told us about his love of training and the time he spent with Kanbun Uechi. He said that there is some confusion about his age during the time he was with Mr. Uechi because his father had another wife. And the children from the other wife needed to be older than the children from the current wife or something like that. So his birthday was changed so that there was no conflict. This resulted in some confusion about his age.

He said that he’d trained with Kanbun Uechi until he was 18.

He said that his sister was the first student of Uechi-ryu. That she trained very hard and became very strong. Unfortunately, she did not remain humble and because of this Toyama Sensei banned her from training. He was very sad that this had happened.

He talked about two concepts – one was “plunging power” or “tobikomi”. /toe bee koe me/ The idea that on the vertical elbow strikes – you’re not shooting yourself forward – you’re dropping in place and your elbow is dropping into the person who’s right in front of you.

The second concept was timing everything together or “ikyuro” /eee cure oh/ – stance, strike – all together for deep impact.

Peggy then mentioned that she had previously seen a video of Naomi, Mr. Toyama’s daughter. Naomi has a reputation of being a formidable martial artist. We asked if we could see her perform.

She was reticent but agreed. She got up and did a pre-arranged kumite with a tall male blackbelt student. She was very impressive and strong. Focused – clean, and powerful technique.

Then she did the very long and tiring kumite AGAIN. With another male black belt student. And she continued to ROCK.

I believe she is a godan. But I’m a little fuzzy and might have that wrong. Whatever her rank – you can tell by the way she moves she’s put in many long hard hours on the floor training.

Which is what I’m going to do right after I hit the save button on this post.

We thanked her for her performance, we thanked Toyama Sensei for answering our questions, we thanked our hosts for the evening and we signed the guest book on the way out the door on our way to our next workout.

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PostPosted: Thu May 13, 2004 3:32 pm 
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After we left Toyama Sensei’s we packed back in the vans and headed to Mr. Miyagi’s dojo for the second workout of the evening.

We started again with Sanchin. The corrections were the same – tighten everything, have the feeling of the knees sinking towards each other, When you strike maintain your Sanchin – you must control your body and balance at all times.

I think what we did next was hojo-undo in a circle. But we might have done that first. He would call a technique out and then he and his students would come around and offer corrections. Most of the corrections I received were around keeping the core body muscles focused throughout the technique. Also there were the corrections again about the circle block. In Mr. Miyagi’s school they do what I’ll call for lack of a better term “classic” circle block. The rear foot hand fingers point at the crease of the elbow at the start of the block, the forward foot hand circles, and then the rear foot hand reaches out and cross the body before ending in the post position. The flat hand post position, the final position – is the same with both hands on the same plane.

Then we moved to Seisan. Seisan is done the same way – you have the same focused body that you had for Sanchin. When I was up I think I held the first knee strike up for about 5 minutes while they walked down the line and checked our focus. One of Mr. Miyagi’s senior students kept checking the back of the kneeing leg to make sure that the calf was tightly focused. At the same time, he’d check the tendons at the knee to make sure the quads were focused as well as the muscles over your shin. Then they’d come back and feel for the strength in your arms. Again – whatever wasn’t moving should be kept strong.

I’m not sure how much speed you develop doing this – but you do get an AMAZING workout. And according to Mr. Miyagi the first thing you train is strength, then power, then speed will come.

Let me emphasize that there was not tension or tightness in the striking limb of him or any of his students. So during the double hasami strikes at the open of the kata – his student snapped his arms up quickly and decisively – but his body was still rock hard. I definitely got the feeling of whips attached to a very strong core. Also – whenever he was talking about application he said that you always coordinate the body movement with tension stepping. He’s just very, very focused on core strength.

Tired and happy we piled back into the buses for the trip home. Morning would find us back at Okikukai headquarters to (you guessed it!) TRAIN!

More karate anyone?

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PostPosted: Sat May 15, 2004 9:31 pm 
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Wednesday morning - believe it or not this is our next to last workout at the headquarters. This was the morning that we were told we were really all starting to pull it together, that we were all looking much better than when we got off the plane, and that the dan test would be held with all candidates participating on Friday.

For seisan kata I received a correction/clarification on the eyeline before the second knee strike. Look forward until the moment you retract the hand for the shoken and put the leg behind you. Retracting the hand and putting the leg behind you in sanchin should all happen in one clean crisp movement. Your hand that your knee hit stays in the same place - forward and away from your body. Don't rush from the knee strike to the shokens. They are two different distinct techniques. Do the knee strike well. Then prepare and do the shokens well.

I'm also going to share a series of corrections I received from Mr. Takara. He said that my speed and power for a Sandan were exactly where they needed to be. He said that in order to further my training toward Yondan that I didn't have to demonstrate my power at all times. The movements should flow like water and be made beautiful. The circle blocks should be larger. And many techniques should be more about grace and timing than power. This includes some of the more linear striking techniques such as the double koken strikes in seisan, the forward leaning elbow strikes, as well as the circular movements such as the hawk chases sparrow, and the wa-uke neko ashi dachi.

He also said that because I was an apprentice teacher (shidoin) that I must always make sure that I do my movements clearly and not too small. That I must demonstrate my movements in a way that others can see them and not do them too quickly when I'm teaching or demonstrating kata. He said this a couple of times in a row - which to me meant that it was a very important concept to him. He said that if you do the techniques too quickly in front of students they will rush their technique. I must show them full technique at a pace they can learn.

He again said that I must coordinate my entire body with my movements - and this is when he showed me a very cool training technique. He took a long length of rubber tubing and tied one end to a large makiwara and made the other end into a loop. (These drills can be done with anything elastic that provides resistance - I'd highly urge folks to get Thera-bands: http://www.thera-band.com/resistive.html or a similar type thing.)

He stood in sanchin facing away from the makiwara. He hooked the tube over his palm and did the single lower bushiken strike from the waist. He didn't strike hard or fast. He kept saying - coordinate your body, use your body. He then did the movement of the strike very slowly. Then he told me to try. At first I was standing too far away from the makiwara and the tension was too great. (He does out-weigh me by a little). And so I was being pulled off balance during my retraction. He said this wasn't correct and that I should back up a little so there was less resistance. Then I did the strike. He made sure that my elbow was staying close to my body and that I was keeping the strike at the correct height from retraction to the targer. I tell you what, I could really feel my obliques working, my glutes working, and really feel how my arm pick up stability and power once it passed the line of my hips. Also - by holding the strike at full extension I could feel where my weight was and what I was doing to manage the resistance from the tube with my legs.

After I tried on both sides he took the tube back and faced at a 90 degree angle to the Makiwara and started doing circle blocks - again with the tube hooked over his palm. The idea was that you should have resistance as your circle moves away from the centerline toward the final post position. So as your arm is coming across and up there is no resistance from the tube - but once your start circling your hand outward - then you should be at the proper distance that you feel resistance. Again - he said to coordinate the whole body. Again he did the circles at an even pace - he wasn't rushing or doing them very quickly.

Then it was my turn again. The resistance really helped me feel if I was collapsing at the elbow at any point or if I doing a good job of maintaining my unbreakable arm angle throughout the path of the circle. I did both sides.

Then he took the tube for the third time - faced away from the makiwara and hooked the tube over his big toe. Yep - you guessed it, front kicks. Again not too fast. This isn't to work the explosiveness of the kick really...it was again about body coordination. I really felt the resistance in my core body muscles. You shouldn't let the resistance snap your leg back and break your balance - you want to do the full range of motion of the kick - including the post at the end. {Later- back in the US I tried this same training tool with several kicks - it's works great on all of them.}

When I did judo back in college we'd used bungee cords wrapped around trees to train pulling for our throws. But it really hadn't occured to me to bring that training into my Uechi. Mr. Takara gave me some excellent examples of how to do that - I'm very thankful.

That was all for the morning. Though we did manage to squeeze in a little more demo practice after the workout. That evening I would be headed to the Ginowan City dojo, others would be going to the Chatan dojo and the Sashiki dojo.

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PostPosted: Mon May 17, 2004 5:53 pm 
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:D Great journal. Great observations,etc. Keep up the good work. Send a write-up of your trip,etc. to FMAM if you feel so inclined. Halford


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PostPosted: Tue May 18, 2004 12:19 am 
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Thanks Halford. I do plan on editing some of what I've written for articles and for posting on the Women's Friendship Tour site. There are also going to be some notes added soon by others who've shared with me what they've written.
***********************

Wednesday Evening.

Our group was headed for the Ginowan City Dojo. The dojo is beautiful and we were welcomed by Mr. Tamayose Sensei as well as Mr. Arakaki Sensei.

Both of these teachers had been with us for several days of training at the Okikukai HQ - so many of the corrections I received were ones I had heard and just not yet been able to make my body do.

One of the things mentioned was that when you do a partner set, like Seisan bunkai, you must help your partner learn the proper defenses by having a strong and clear intention to your attacks. If you give an attack with no spirit, then they don't need any spirit to defend. But if your spirit is strong, then they will defend accordingly.

Believe me, if Mr. Arakaki came barrelling at you yelling and swinging a shinai at your leg - you'd be motivated to get out of the way!

It was also mentioned that your fighting face should be too much of a grimace. Focused, clear, but not an ugly face. Don't make unnecessary tension in your face - you'll end up with tight shoulders.

I was again corrected to make larger circle blocks and to make sure that the arm doing the shoken scooping block ended parallel to the floor before the toss.

Oh - and I don't remember if it was this night or another - but in Seichin kata after the two wrist strike/osaiay pressure grab combos - you turn and do a double armed technique. This move is something I've always trained as an inward movement - the two forearms doing hajiki snap towards the centerline. However at the Okikukai dojo I was corrected to do this snap away from the centerline. So you'd start with your arms crossed and end in Sanchin position with the hands facing outward.

We were reminded to have a full crescent to the crescent step (depending on the teacher a full crescent could mean to your centerline, past the centerline, near your other foot, or just about touching your other foot.)
Also to make sure your sanchin strike wasn't too low.

Peggy shared with me a nice little correction in that when you throw your sanchin strike in front of a mirror - you shouldn't be able to see your palm. If you wrist is at the proper angle you should basically just see your fingertips.

Then the workout was over and it was time to drink beer and make friendship.

MGD was in the cooler and the BBQ was fired up and filled with sausages, strips of pork, and other tasty delights. There were a couple of different cabbage/raddish salads and several yummy candy bars for dessert.

And then we were in for a real treat. Tamayose Sensei got out his Shamisen. And by this time Tom, one of Mr. Nakamatsu's students had dropped by and joined him for a song or two. What fun. Mr. Tamayose has a wonderful voice and when the two men sang together it was very relaxing and soothing. A couple of small taiko appeared and the Germans kept good time. Then we heard a couple of German folk songs. After a few more Okinawan folk tune it was time to call it a night.

Tomorrow morning we would be sight-seeing on the northern part of Okinawa and tomorrow evening we were going to visit the Kadena Dojo and experience class with Master Shinjo.

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