week's thought is from Sensei
The Yin and Yang of Kata
Onegaishimasu Hanshi, Kyoshi, Sensei, Senpai and Deshi,
I hope this post finds everyone safely enjoying the Memorial Day weekend.
As most of you know, the 2016 Minnesota in May weekend event, hosted by the Northfield deshi, took place recently. The Minnesota and visiting deshi were honored to have Kyoshi Mackay as well as several high-ranking Sensei come and share their wisdom, experience and energy with us.
Throughout the weekend, Kyoshi Mackay discussed the recent techniques of the week and incorporated them into our training with great insight. During our final workout on Sunday, he shared something that impacted me on a fundamental level. Arigato Kyoshi!
While training Fukugata-ichi with high intensity, Kyoshi shared with us the concepts of stillness, yin and yang, soft and hard, flow and explosive technique and how they apply to kata training. It went far beyond words as he wove the concepts into the kata nicely, never speaking for more than a few sentences, never allowing the kata to cool down.
He spoke first of flow as discussed by Sensei Dobrow in his recent TOTW submission. He demonstrated how our Shorin-Ryu moves should flow, without tension and without interruption, from the beginning to end. Flow, he added, is the yin of our style, the softness, the smooth acceleration that is part of maximizing explosive power. We karateka began to flow with smooth efficacy. Then Kyoshi emphasized that the hard, yang is when we impact our target or finish our move. For that split second, that instant in time, we are completely hard with every muscle in our body contracted. Then comes stillness, back to yin, completely relaxed with no motion except for our breathing, slow and controlled, with a nice, 2 second pause before the next move. And finally, a perfect instant of stillness when we complete an exhale and before we begin to inhale. At that point everything is completely still. It seemed to me that when I found that instant, the universe itself paused. I experienced the sensation in that moment that all I ever needed was kata Fukugat-ichi to train and perfect.
Kyoshi Mackay embodied this lesson as he trained the kata with us. At one point, during the low block turn from the reverse punch back to the front, he seemed exceptionally smooth, fast and fluid until he hit instantaneous stillness. The sweat from his forehead, however, remaining fluid, flew off at least twenty feet away. In my peripheral vision I could see that before that drop of sweat was a few inches away, Kyoshi was perfectly still; no wiggle, no wobble, no looking around, just breathing.
What I have attempted to convey is a mere shadow of what Kyoshi taught. It has to be experienced in the moment, on the deck, in the kata. I highly recommend that if you are interested in exploring this further, that you seek out a Sensei or Senpai that was present that day and ask them to share their experience with you.
Domo Arigato Hanshi, Kyoshi, Sensei, Senpai and Deshi!