Kyoshi's Technique of the Week

Technique of the Week (March 14th 2011)

From Sensdei Kyoshi Michael Mackay

Ueshiro Midtown Dojo, NYC

Onegai shimasu, practitioners of Ueshiro Shorin-Ryu USA.

This week's "Technique of the Week" is a summary of corrections made by Hanshi to the Ik-Kyu at the Presidents' Weekend Workout in Florida last month. Although some of the corrections are for more advanced kata, the core principles are extremely relevant to students of every level.

Domo arigato gozaimasu to Hanshi for offering the Ik-Kyu so much "sugar," and to the Ik-kyu for memorializing such valuable information.

Kyoshi Michael Mackay

Ueshiro Midtown Dojo, NYC


Corrections made by Hanshi to Ik-kyu attending Florida workouts

February 19 and 20, 2011


Step first. Hanshi made it clear that this was the most important correction. Hanshi told of his shodan promotion in 1972. Master Ueshiro looked at all the shihan and told them "Teach the students to step first." Master Ueshiro said the same thing after every black belt test thereafter.

Focus on posture. Chest up and big; collar bones up; shoulders down - all the time. When turning the head, turn it all the way. Use strength in hips, not shoulders.

In kio-tsuke, the hands are so straight that the fingers extend back and are lightly touching the gi; a perfect shuto. No cupping or bending of the hand.

In yoi position, chest out and shoulders down; a perfect yoi heightens the kata with the right attitude. The attitude is very important because the kata begins with the correct yoi.

Don't grimace; if you have to it should be done at the moment of the strike/hit, then the face should relax with the rest of body. Try to accentuate ("grimace" ) with the belly, the hara, not the face.

Hanshi also talked about one's ki or hara being the center and using it to lead the body in movement. He made reference to the ancient Greeks believing that their brain was in the area we know as the hara and how they fought believing so.

The most important point Hanshi made and really stressed was that if you have doubts about any technique you should consult Master Nagamine's book. "Even if you get corrected by a Sensei and you think you did the technique correctly, you should still follow the Nagamine book." It is proper protocol to make the correction for the Sensei during that class and then look it up to confirm it later.

* Fukyugata ichi: step first.

* Fukyugata ni: Hanshi wants the elbow strike high with the fist forward of the ear. He did not want the double strike lost, so he wanted fully chamber hands for the double punch.

* Fukyugata san: Hanshi wanted the head not to move until the feet were rooted in the down block turns. Keep head facing forward until the last minute while chambering. In double punches Hanshi wanted each punch FULLY chambered. Make sure the first punch is a jab; extend it all the way and get power for the second punch. In combo punches, no pause. In the move before the chasing punch, Hanshi wanted perfect chest block with the head turned in. After that move he wanted us to plant the foot before each chasing punch.

* Pinan kata - general: Hanshi talked about keeping the line [between the blocking hands] long in opening moves. Tuck groin in or back, sitting back in the stance like a cat.

* Pinan shodan: In the first move Hanshi wanted us to have a long line between the left hand and the right hand in the uke blocks. He stressed that in cat stance the knee is over the foot or heel as in the photos and drawings. A common error is to have the foot too far forward of the knee. In kosa dachi Hanshi wanted the knee resting on the calf, then squeeze the legs together for more foundation.

* Pinan nidan: Hanshi wanted the feet planted before we made the [opening] strike. As in all moves, we may chamber as we step then execute when the feet are in place. Execute immediately as the feet are placed, similar to the hammer of a gun hitting the primer of a bullet: the bullet explodes out of the barrel.

* Pinan sandan: Lots of corrections. In the shuto uke blocks the feet must be in position before you release. Then at the double block stay low, using smooth, fluid motion throughout (without pause), plant feet and explode out. The back fist does not come from the hip. The fist comes up to the solar plexus, then a back fist that snaps back to the hip as shown in the kata DVD. It does not snap back to the solar plexus. The fist starts on the hip with the palm facing back, not down; by the time it chambers at the solar plexus the palm faces down, then after the return to the hip/belt the palm is facing backwards as per Nagamine Sensei’s book. With the final double strikes Hanshi wanted us to strike with both arms (i.e., fist and elbow) after planting the feet. In Pinan sandan there are no kicks/sweeps shown in Master Nagamine's book, however in USRKUSA we include the sweeps.

* Pinan Yondan: The line [between blocking hands] must be longer. The cat stance must collapse correctly when coming in for the elbow strike. The elbow strike is forward, but not so far forward as to create an angle. Don't slam your elbow into your own hand. Show the power in other ways. The next move was a big correction: there is no hidden fist. We were all corrected that the fist chambers only to the solar plexus, not under the arm pit, as per Nagamine Sensei's book.

With the kick and double punch, Hanshi wants long chambers. Feet must land in proper cat stance posture after kick. He wants our chest out and shoulders down with the reinforced chest blocks. After the last chest block he wants the hands to open in shuto straight from the chest block, same height, then bring our knee up and hands down. In Pinan Yondan and Naihanchi kata intermediate moves, the chambered fists are up high in the pocket while the shoulders stay down. More importantly, elbows must be straight back, NOT winging out to the sides.

* Pinan Godan: the scissor block was kept at chest level and not above the chin: wrists at shoulder height. Hanshi showed us a chest block at chest level then opened his hand into shuto. He put his second hand right next to the block in the "x" formation and that was the right level for the scissor block. For the intermediate move the hand is the same height as in the regular chest blocks in all kata.

* Naihanchi kata: Hanshi wanted our knees back over the toes, not collapsing inward or forward of the knees. Keep the head in line with the body. He wanted us to stay straight on the line, big arch in the back; breathe correctly. The elbow strike in Naihanchi sho does not go out too far. The arms are parallel to the body or striking SLIGHTLY downward as shown in Nagamine Sensei's book: NOT too LOW.

* Ananku: The first move was corrected. The hands moved to an "x" but not above our head. The "x" is about neck level as can be seen in the book. However, one may express personality with an exaggerated height--NOT for everyone--for demonstrations that emphasize power. Hanshi made so many references to "The Essence of Karate-Do" I could not remember every one of them.

* Nunchuka: Nunchuka die after a loop. Use the loop to make them die. Practice hitting through an object with chucks. Keep a shuto hand in front of the solar plexus.

* On testing:

Practice one kata each morning primarily at half speed.

Until the test, working at half speed on our own is more important than full speed, which we work in class.

If you know Wankan, say that Ananku is your highest kata during the Sho-dan test. I.e., do NOT demonstrate your highest kata when asked to do a special or favorite kata. Do the kata you are most familiar with, NOT one that you learned two months ago.

During the test just do it, as you would sign your name or tie a shoe, by rote without thought. Let it flow naturally.

- Hanshi Robert Scaglione