Kata applications seminar

Last night I attended my first martial arts seminar, in this case looking at kata applications from a traditional Okinawan/Ryukyu perspective. The seminar was run by Renshi Jason Grifiths and organised by Sensei, and proved really interesting and worthwhile. Renshi is a student of Hanshi Patrick McCarthy, and Sensei has told us plenty about their training and background in class, so it was awesome to be able to have a training session with him. If you’re interested in checking out some of Hanshi’s work, Sensei posted a link to some videos on YouTube – click here to check them out. I haven’t taken the time to check them out yet, but I’ll have a look over the weekend to see how the contents from the training seminar might be reflected in the videos he’s posted.

Renshi had an interesting training background – akin to the adventures of Robert Twigger (see Angry White Pajamas, which is an excellent read BTW), he trained full-time and shared a place with his training partners while living in Japan. Definitely the old-school martial arts dream, and you could see how his dedication to his art was reflected in his form and knowledge – in addition to his amazing technique and form, his knowledge of how to manipulate the human anatomy and pressure points was an eye-opener. Once again, it shows that kata applications can be directed and transformed into incredibly focused, effective and direct practical application.

But I think I’m getting ahead of myself 😛 This was the first martial arts training seminar I’d attended, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I rolled up a little bit early, did a bit of stretching and joined in on the conversation before class started. After warming up, Renshi started on the theoretical side of things whilst demonstrating the practical application on Sensei. We then partnered up for the rest of the evening, starting out with simple drills and gradually adding additional layers of complexity to the routines. The techniques we were doing were aimed more at the higher grades given the emphasis on forms from Bassai dai and Tekki, but it was enlightening to see the way movements from various kata can be translated into practical techniques.

For the evening, the majority of the applications were aimed at demonstrating chokes, holds and manipulating the body via biomechanics. The final form which aimed to demonstrate flow kata was really cool – it reminded me of the principle of sticking hands, whereby every technique aims to develop automatic reflexes by rolling between strikes and counters dynamically, but this time within a kata framework. I personally had no idea that karate featured so much in the way of chokes, gappling, holds and counter-techniques, so it really brought home that the secret of karate is to look into the kata – whatever you miss in your basic drills is covered within kata. It was also good to hear some of the theory behind differences in styles and the premise behind some of the variations in terms of technique.

While I reckon I was a bit rubbish at the drills last night, I still found it an excellent experience, and I’ll certainly be taking the principles taught during the session and translate them into my understanding of the kata I’m working on for my next grading (I’ve already started thinking of some of the deeper meanings behind some of the techniques!). Hopefully this is a sign of things to come as I continue training and have future opportunities to attend other seminars that might be relevant or interesting to me.

Thanks to Renshi for his time and insight during the session, Sensei for organising the seminar, Mitsi for being a patient training partner during the drills, and, arguably most importantly, to Wifey for being her usual awesome self in letting me run away for another evening this week and jump around in my white pajamas for a couple of hours 😉

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