April 05, 2010

Live (for the moment) from the Budokan

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a civilized society is one that maintains a spacious and elegant martial arts training facility at the public expense. It's nice to be in such a place for once.

Today was day one of a five day seminar on traditional Okinawan karate do in the Holy Land itself. The items on today's menu were some of the main reasons I left home, kindred and even the iPhone (!) To travel to the far side of the world: an introduction to authentic Naha te karate, a strand of the tradition not taught in proximity to Goat Rope Farm.

The two main styles of Naha te are Goju Ryu and Uechi Ryu. Since we're doing Uechi all day tomorrow as well, I'll save that one for later. Goju literally means hard / soft as in yin yang. It's an elegant and sophisticated fighting system much influenced by southern Chinese styles.

Our teacher for the morning session was Yoshio Kuba Sensei, who took us through a session that began with junbi undo or warm up exercises that literally started with the toes and worked methodically through the rest of the body. Then came kihon or basic movements similar to but different from the other Okinawan tradition of Shuri te that I'm more familiar with. In Goju, an apparently simple move can have several layers of meaning.

Next came a study of katas, which are pre-arranged series of fighting movements which form the essence of karate, followed by bunkai, which form the basis of karate. A well executed kata solo exercise is beautiful to watch but is also loaded with meanings and practical applications. We worked with the kata Sepai, which is one of my favorites. Kuba Sensei explained some of the traditional applications hidden within the movements.

One of my goals for the trip was to study authentic versions of the kata Sanchin, which means something like "three battles." It is a tanren or forging (as in metal) kata, which in Goju is performed with dynamic tension and special breathing . The movements are deceptively simple but hard to get right. Kuba Sensei gave us a tour through it today. More on that later.

Day Two is about to start. Once more unto the breech ...


Chaya said...

Makes me feel more ancient and centered already. Please share a deeper meaning or two that you're learning.

hollowdweller said...

Did you feel the urge to sing any Cheap Trick songs and play air guitar??