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Simon Lailey discovered Superempi during his journey and studies in China. He introduced the kata to the rest of the world in the mid 90s during his visit to Boston and his interview with me, followed by his Summerfest seminars that year. The interview and demonstrations were published in the new video magazine, issue # …View full post
I have been going through my DVD archives this week and discovered quite a few that you might wish to add to your collection. I will post one of these historic videos every week that I will offer for sale. 1985 WinterFest held on Okinawa Over 100 teachers and students …View full post
Aug 09 2004
Permanent link to this article: http://uechi-ryu.com/forida-seminars-in-february/
Apr 13 2004
Eugene Fliman Second-degree black belt
I would like to start saying that it was a great weekend! I got promoted to second-degree black belt (Nidan). It was not an easy road for me, and it took a lot of effort and dedication both on my side and on my family’s side, especially my wife Sofya, who was totally supportive and very proud of me.
After the test on Friday, we had a day and a half of seminars, covering many aspects of Uechi-ryu. I would like to list here what I have learned, and how I am going to improve my Karate using this newly acquired knowledge.
It was very interesting to see how little changes in my Karate can impact overall performance, in particular soft movements instead of hard; they really freed up the energy of my body, and allowed me to move easily, with less energy loss, and better breathing.
Hands rubbing exercises were looked at under a new light, giving us a chance to make it a very useful exercise, allowing me to practice balance, Uechi hands, stance, and body movement. Actually, Sanchin hands are a very important aspect of one’s training, and should always be used, giving us advantage over other martial arts, and are one of the fundamental principles of our Karate style.
It was also very useful for us to continue working on speed, non-stop movements in Dan and Kyu Kumites. We were also encouraged to experiment with Dan and Kyu Kumites, and to think about new finishing techniques.
We did Sanchin Kata for a few minutes using three different timing sequences – traditional, strike chambered on step, strike completed on step. This actually makes it a very interesting practice, opening new venues in this basic, but very important Kata.
During exercises we learned to practice “touch” kicks, which really means better targeting, which is important in Uechi-ryu. We also learned to follow through on punches – to do it slow speed, and to not pull back. Following this teaches us how to use Karate in real life situations, where some practitioners fail, since they have never done real punches with the partner.
Sensei Mattson also showed us how to correctly use hip movement at the advanced belt level, emphasizing that it should go from the ground, using it to add power to the movements.
We were also introduced to the concept that the shoulder can be used (not in Sanchin) to finish the smoothness of the movement, especially in the Wauke blocks. Also, we were taught to not straighten the arm during Wauke block – to keep it always in Sanchin.
Sensei Mattson demonstrated how the breathing should be such that you can breathe at any moment in the Kata. Sensei Mattson also demonstrated different ways to block – not to hit the opponent with your block (even though it could be used as one of the techniques if so desired), but rather defend your line of the body.
And another very important point that he made – we should accelerate all the moves, giving us additional power, without really adding any additional effort to the move. Sensei Mattson also showed us another way to do the hammer-fist strike – we shouldn’t open the arm, but rather do it from Sanchin.
My final lesson learned was to keep the semi-circle (not straight arms) during the two-arm strikes in the Kata.
Overall, I felt that this was an extremely useful seminar, and I would like to thank Sensei Mattson for his time and dedication, and I would like to thank Sensei Kahn for all that he has done for me in preparation for my Nidan test.
Permanent link to this article: http://uechi-ryu.com/what-have-i-learned-during-sensei-mattson-visit-to-chicago/
Mar 30 2004
No matter how much I think I might know about the study, practice and teaching of Uechi-ryu, a short visit from Sensei Mattson never fails to humble me.
As always, I am honored and grateful that Sensei Mattson was able to travel to Chicago to spend a weekend working with me and my students. I am not going to write about all of the training concepts that were shared with us by Sensei, as the essays written by the other students did a great job of covering those topics. Instead, I am going to approach this essay from a different perspective; I am going to discuss the concepts that were taught by Sensei will enhance my teaching ability.
The first, and most repeated, concept that Sensei mentioned was the tendency for students to attempt to generate power solely through the use of muscular strength. While this seems like a perfectly logical way to generate power, it is in fact, counterproductive. When a student attempts to generate power through muscle strength alone, it is likely that all of the muscles will be flexed. When this happens, the movement of the particular technique in question is slowed considerably, as both set of antagonistic muscle pairs are fighting against each other.
While the muscles appear, or even feel, as if they are working hard, they are simply “spinning their wheels.” The reason is quite simple when explained kinesthetically. The most important variable in generating power is speed, not strength. As speed increases, so too does the power one can generate. In order to maximize speed, one must keep opposing muscle pairs from working against each other. Therefore, students should be encouraged to refrain from overtly flexing their muscles during any kinetic movements as they perform their techniques.
Using the mass from their entire body (and from the Earth itself if they are properly rooted), coupled with maximum speed generated from a properly relaxed body, students should be able to maximize the power generated, and hence the force applied to their target as they flex their muscles at the point of impact, or focus. Sensei also spent time with the students encouraging everyone to move naturally. While what is natural for one student might not apply to another, the overall concept applies to each student as a human being.
As a member of the human species, each student can be expected to have certain physical traits that lend themselves to movements performed in certain predictable manners. When students attempt to perform their techniques in an unnatural manner, overall power and efficiency is lost. A contributing factor in this regard is probably due to the mystical properties newer students try to attribute to Karate techniques. Because Karate techniques are misunderstood by newer students, many attempt to perform them in an unnatural manner, because if the techniques were easy to perform, everyone would have Black Belt level skill.
Students should always be taught to move naturally, as any human normally would. For example, we don’t encourage track stars to run faster by adopting an unnatural toe-to-heel foot roll as they run. Likewise, we shouldn’t encourage our students to perform their Karate techniques in an unnatural manner. On of the most common errors students make when trying to perform their techniques is trying to maintain a stiff, inflexible posture during their movements. Sensei was very clear that when performing movements such as the Wa-uke block, that the shoulders should move naturally as the arm is moved across the body. If the shoulders are kept in an upright and locked position, all of the natural power that the block should generate is lost, thereby causing one of two problems.
First, the block would be so weak when performed that it would be entirely ineffective. Alternatively, the student, in an attempt to make the block strong enough to be effective, would overcompensate for the lack of power by moving the body into an even more unnatural position. Ultimately, this would lead to a breakdown of the basic Sanchin posture, thereby sacrificing all of the benefits of that stance. Another similar problem occurs as students resist the urge to allow their hips to move naturally as they perform their various techniques. While Sensei did not advocate an emphasis of hip movement, and even discouraged it for beginning students, he did state that natural movement of the hips is necessary for properly executing powerful and effective techniques.
This hip movement can include rotational movements, such as would be executed during Sanchin thrusts or Wa-uke blocks, as well as front-to-back movements performed during the execution of a front kick. In keeping with the concept of natural body mechanics, Sensei also spent a great deal of time discussing and training the students on the merits of the “Uechi immovable arm.” The strongest position of the arm is when it is neither fully bent, nor fully extended. Therefore, maximum strength is achieved when the elbow is bent at approximately a 45 degree angle, or the standard Sanchin arm position.
Sensei further demonstrated how that angle should maintained through a wide variety of techniques, including the Wa-uke block, as well as Hiraken blocks and strikes, eye strikes, and countless others. All of these techniques were practiced so that students could see for themselves the difference in the performance of the techniques under both sets of arm positions.
Another teaching tool that I hope to integrate into our classes is the concept of performing techniques, Kata and Kumite in various manners, as opposed to performing them in the same manner each and every time. By varying the manner in which they are performed, whether varying the tempo or the rhythm of the drills, the students learn to be more flexible in how they use their techniques, footwork and posture in order to maximize their effectiveness in any given situation. And, quite frankly, being flexible enough to modify how techniques are used is essential to being able to adapt to any possible scenario in which one might find oneself.
Permanent link to this article: http://uechi-ryu.com/the-seminar-from-a-teachers-perspective-by-david-kahn/
Mar 30 2004
First off, I would like to thank Mr. Mattson for a very exciting and beneficial weekend. We appreciate all the time he spent with us over the course of the three days he was here. We are very lucky to have a man of Mr. Mattson’s abilities to visit Chicago and keep us in touch with what people on the East coast are practicing.
Throughout the course of Mr. Mattson’s seminars, I picked up many useful and practical tips relating to Uechi-ryu. To begin with, after my Nidan test Mr. Mattson pointed out that many of us Chicagoans seemed to be out of breath or breathing heavily. With that said, one of my goals in practicing Uechi-ryu is to generate more power through less exertion and proper body mechanics. Proper body mechanics make a huge difference when it comes to effortless power. The subtle movements of the lower and upper-body can be the key to generating that explosive karate we all strive to achieve. Another key correction Mr. Mattson discussed many times during the seminar dealt with the free hand during the Wa-uke block.
Many of us were putting too much movement in the free hand of the block. Mr. Mattson corrected and told us it should be the slightest of movements. The hand should move only a matter of an inch rather than inches. Mr. Mattson made us aware that those extra inches we moved our freehand can develop into dangerous habits. Another topic of the Wa-uke block Mr. Mattson discussed was the shoulder movement. He demonstrated that a proper Wa-uke block must have shoulder movement. The slightest shoulder movement allowed us to move the freehand less and through the body mechanics we could generate more power in our block.
The improved block felt more natural, and Mr. Mattson even talked about putting more hip into the block which emphasized more body mechanics to create the smooth, effortless power. On the first day of seminars, Mr. Mattson had us focus on the acceleration of our techniques. Mr. Mattson stated that it is very important for us to accelerate up to full speed through the strikes, rather than try at the beginning of each strike to force the movements at one hundred percent. Allowing the acceleration of each movement made me feel a great deal smoother in all of my katas.
The strikes were just as powerful or even more with the bettered acceleration. This correction made a big difference in the feel of the katas, and for me, I think it is one of the most important concepts he touched on. Mr. Mattson also showed us how we could generate powerful kicks for longer periods of time in our life. Mr. Mattson touched on a point that could save our knees in the long run. Many of us had the tendency to lift the knee up and slam it down while thrusting the leg out. Mr. Mattson showed us that by doing this, there is tons of stress on the knee and could provoke easy injury and long term problems with the knee. Mr. Mattson discussed of how important it is to practice doing different Sanchins. While he was in town we did multiple Sanchins that were different in length, speed and purpose.
It was the best way to practice Sanchin. Mr. Mattson brought to our attention that if we only practice things one way, that’s the only way we will be able to do them. One of the Sanchins we did was very long and smooth focusing on acceleration, another one was the new “in your face Sanchin”, and the final one we did had multiple variations of how we stepped off the sides and did our Wa-ukes. For the one with multiple variations we did many steps and strikes, and when Mr. Mattson instructed us to do so, we would turn off, step, block and strike each on a different count, and another where we would step block and strike as we were turning. The drill is a great training aid and it helped mix things up in the dojo.
The part of Mr. Mattson’s seminar which I felt was most beneficial to me was the flinching technique. Mr. Mattson showed us how to flinch into the proper position. We did a drill where one person would punch from a relaxed position and the other would have to react by flinching. Mr. Mattson demonstrated the ideal way to flinch. He basically flinched into a Sanchin arm position where most of the upper body was covered. In order to train one’s self to get into the Sanchin position on a flinch takes an immense amount of practice. Mr. Mattson showed us that it is the ideal position to be in. I really believe in this training aid because I feel it will help me in about any situation where I could be attacked. It may seem like a simple concept, but in order for it to work; it has to be second nature. It will take a great deal of practice, but I feel confident that it will help me react quicker and get into in better positioning when I’m not thinking about karate.
Mr. Mattson made sure to let us know that it is very important to make contact while training. He emphasized that if we do not practice making contact that we will end up pulling all of our techniques on real encounters. Mr. Mattson had us practice this by doing Kyu Kumite slowly but making sure all counter attacks made contact on the suggested targets. This drill also helped me with my targeting and gave me a better idea of where more effective strikes are in the Kumite.
One of the last major concepts I remember Mr. Mattson discussing was about the center line. He emphasized that we must remain centered in all of the Kumites and two man drills because it eliminates extra movement. He gave us an example in number three of Dan Kumite. When Mr. Mattson goes for the downward block of the front kick, he pointed out that you will not see him pushing the kick outward, but instead, blocking downward through the centerline and only moving his arm through Sanchin. This gets rid of the kick with minimal extra movement.
His concept of centering will help me eliminate extra movements in the Kumites and become more efficient. Once again Mr. Mattson’s seminars were very beneficial. I would like to thank him again for all the great help he has given me and the rest of the people in Chicago. He helps us keep in touch with the latest of happenings in Uechi-Ryu. And, I would also like to thank my sensei, David Kahn for arranging a great weekend.
Permanent link to this article: http://uechi-ryu.com/sensei-mattsons-chicago-seminars-by-b-j-monson/
Mar 30 2004
Dear Mr. Mattson,
Thank you for teaching me new ways of doing Uechi-ryu. I think it helps to learn different ways and forms of karate.
When I do my blocks I get more power when I keep my arms bent. When I do the chop-backfist-nukite, I learned not to keep my hand by my face. I also think I get more power when I don’t put it by my face.
I thought it was fun when we did the flinch block. It helps because you don’t know when a punch or a kick is coming. What I think helps my power is when I move my hips when I do my katas. During the kata, I also think doing this gives me the ability to hit my target better.
Thank you for giving me some of your time to teach me new ways and forms of Uechi-ryu. I enjoyed your seminar.
Jake Monson, age 10
Permanent link to this article: http://uechi-ryu.com/chicago-seminar-essay-by-jake-monson/
Mar 30 2004
Sensei Mattson’s seminar in Chicago at the end of March gave all of us the opportunity to go back to the essentials of Uechi Ryu Karate. Karate-Do, the path of the empty hand…path of the open hand. Based on this concept, Sensei Mattson, through his teachings and example, showed us that Karate-Do is essentially a way of life. Sensei has a great and honorable responsibility to share his wisdom and enlightenment to guide all of us, the Uechi family, towards that way of life. Sensei’s seminar renewed our knowledge and provided us with real understanding of the meaning of Karate.
The starting point on which everything else parts from is Sanchin. Sanchin kata is the soul of Karate Uechi Ryu. The flow of its circular movements should be used as a guide for all basic movements of the blocks and the Sanchin steps, in this way allowing us to reinforce the center of equilibrium. Sensei emphasized not only the physical equilibrium but also the mental one. His concept is one in which our task is also to put our brains to work and think of creative and innovative techniques that adapt to different situations but never losing sight of the basics, the original form.
The purpose of the continuous and rigorous practice, applying variations to the basics, changing the speed, strength, count and timing of the Sanchin kata, is to help the body and mind dominate those movements without having to think about them. It helps develop a natural and instant reaction to any kind of external stimuli, such as an attack. Through this training, we should reach a state in which thought is not necessary any longer to commit to an action. During the practice of Sanchin kata, the body should be relaxed yet tense at the same time. The flow of energy and strength travels in two steps through the body to the tips of the fingers, reaching its maximum power at the end of the strike, coming to this point through a continuous and homogeneous movement of every muscle in the body involved in such movement. Every movement should be performed as a flow of the body’s natural movements. The involvement of different muscles should be used in the application of every technique to help deliver a strong and powerful form that at the same time blends and links every move in unison without breaking the form.
Permanent link to this article: http://uechi-ryu.com/chicago-seminar-essay-by-paola-bortolin/
Mar 30 2004
I want to thank Sensei Mattson for coming to Chicago. I really liked the seminar. Even though I am only 8 years old, and most of the people in the seminar were adults, I also learned a lot.
One of the things I learned is: don’t pop your knee up when you are doing a kick. You said not to pop your knee up when you are kicking because that way when your knee pops down again you might have a knee injury. I think that is a good idea because it will be a little harder for you to fight if you injured something. I will remember that, and include that into my training because I don’t want a knee injury.
You also said that you shouldn’t pull your arm so far back while doing chops and hammerfists, because in that time your opponent could attack. You can do a chop when your arm is in Sanchin position. I will include this into my training as well, because if I was in a real fight, I would not want to get hit. You also said to accelerate while doing strikes and punches. If you accelerate then your punches will be more powerful. I think that is a good idea because if your muscles are tight, then it will be harder to throw the punch. I will include that into my training too, because I would not want to have a hard time doing something as easy as punching.
Finally, you also said to be relaxed while fighting and doing kata. I think that is a good idea because if you are not relaxed then you can’t be loose and easy, and you won’t be able to fight easily. I will also include that into my training for all of those reasons. Again thank you so much for coming and spending your time with us. It means a lot to me to be able to learn from you. Thank you!
Permanent link to this article: http://uechi-ryu.com/what-i-learned-at-the-chicago-seminar-by-jami-kahn/
Mar 30 2004
Dear Sensei Mattson:
I would first like to thank you for the wonderful seminar that you did for us two weekends ago. It still amazes me that almost one man started Uechi-ryu in the USA only at the age of 18! The things that you taught me will greatly help me with my karate. The hardest thing I have had trouble fixing is in Seisan–the elbow strike. You told me that my back foot’s heel was sticking up. I have been trying to fix this, but every time I try to put my heel down I feel pain, so I have been trying not to take such a big step to do the strike, and so far it has been working.
The easiest thing I had fixing was when you told us when doing any kind of movement, to start off slow then accelerate. I originally struggled a little bit, because I had always thought that if you started off really fast, that my strike would be very powerful. But now I have been accelerating and I have found my strikes to be much more powerful. During the seminar you kept on stressing that while doing a movement, your hands and arms should always be in that unbreakable Sanchin position. While doing the hammer fist strike, mostly every person in the class was starting with their fists right next to their heads and swinging it around.
A better idea is that we are supposed to do start with our fist in a Sanchin position and thrust outwards and hit the hand. When in an actual fight, before it starts, the best way to defend yourself is the flinch. You told us to pretend that we were arguing with someone and all of the sudden they just throw a punch at you. What you have to do is quickly raise your hands into a Sanchin position, and most likely you have blocked the attack. While doing Kanshu and Seichin you had to stop us because we were doing the arm crossing, then breaking, wrong.
What happens is when you cross your arms too much, they end up becoming a target for your opponent to get a punch right into your chest. So when crossing your arms you are supposed to just barely cross, so your hands are back to back. I greatly admire all the hard work you have done over the years. I can’t imagine how long it takes to become a 9th degree black belt. This is because even though I am 13 years old, I have been doing Uechi-ryu for eight years, and I am now a brown belt.
Permanent link to this article: http://uechi-ryu.com/what-i-learned-at-the-chicago-seminar-by-corey-diamond/
Mar 30 2004
Dear Sensei Mattson,
I’d like to begin by first thanking you for your visit to Chicago to conduct the Friday night Dan testing, as well as the two day seminar. The lessons learned are indeed invaluable, and have truly shed new light on aspects of Uechi that mustn’t ever be overlooked or forgotten.
Such aspects boil down to the basics, combined with other fun and creative ideas found in our kata, bankai and kumite which you brought to everyone’s attention over the weekend. The basics should be important to all Uechi practitioners regardless of rank, duration of study, or skill level. For example, they should be focused on by everyone regardless of whether they are high ranking seasoned veterans, or white belts donning new uniforms for their very first lesson.
Much of what I gathered from the weekend all boiled down to such basics found in Sanchin. If an error is made in later kata, one can be assured that it’s (more than likely) being made in some part of Sanchin. To begin then, the foundations for proper breathing for example all start with good habits developed in Sanchin. I think students (myself included of course– and through no one’s fault but my own) get too distracted by too many concepts such as: do we breath on the strike, before the strike, a little air, a lot of air, etc; when in fact one should just be breathing naturally as one might do when swimming, running, walking, or even just talking.
My favorite example of breathing that you imparted to us occurred when you demonstrated the ability to have a conversation while doing Sanchin. In other words, I learned that if one is breathing naturally, one should be able to talk while doing kata and not be out of breath at the end of the kata, and perhaps in this case, not be out of breath while doing kata and conversing. Granted, some of this can be developed with proper conditioning and other exercise, but for the most part just doing Sanchin and breathing naturally will give a student all of the fundamentals necessary to breathe naturally.
I know that when it’s developed in Sanchin, proper breathing will find its way into sparring, and ultimately will give one an edge when faced with the real stress found in life-threatening situations. Sometimes it is breathe or die. Aside from proper breathing which I know I need to continue to develop, another concept that I learned over the weekend pertains directly to power and the ways in which it can be developed or harnessed. In sum, I realized that power is not developed by muscular strength or brute force– but by proper and efficient body mechanics.
For example, a major point that was stressed during the seminar (and is another basic foundation of Uechi) has to do with fluidity of movement and remaining tension free when performing blocks and strikes. I learned that the concept of tension free does not mean “loosey-goosey” for lack or a better term, nor does it mean to be weak or frail. To me it means to stay in Sanchin, to use a strong and rooted stance, to use the hips, to use the lats, and to develop it from the ground up. It also means stay athletic, stay ready, be poised, and yet remain flexible. I know that tension robs a person of his or her ability to be powerful regardless of the endeavor.
I know for example from playing golf that if my back swing or down swing has any tension in it whatsoever, I will have wasted all of my energy prior to that most pivotal and important point of the swing– the moment of impact when the club head meets the ball. Because I know that the power equals force times speed, one can conclude that power is notably gained with faster movements. Similarly, faster movements are only possible when the muscles are relaxed and not working in opposition to one another. Case in point: A skinny 155 pound Charles Howell III, the PGA golfer can hit a golf ball nearly 330 yards with his driver, and the big 270 + pound John Daily produces the same yardage off the tee.
The smaller man who can swing faster will hit the ball as far or farther than the heavier man who swings more slowly. (As an aside, I am a huge John Daily fan by the way. I hope he wins The Masters.) That said, my goal is to continue to stay as tension free as possible on my strikes (and blocks too) until the final moment of impact through the target zone. At that point (at the final moment of impact), I want to compress all of the energy (power) gained from what I mention earlier: speed, Sanchin stance, hips and lats all connecting and flowing and working in timely, synchronized, coordinated movements from the ground up. But yet, what is power without precision?
Ah yes, as the old saying goes, there’s a lot of long ball hitters off the tee, but too bad they’re all in the woods! Misdirected power achieves no real end. Perhaps it feels good—but in combat it’ll cost a person dearly. With that in mind…… precision of movement and targeting is another valuable lesson learned over the weekend. Accuracy, exactness, and targeting are all of the essentials that should be developed before concepts of power are really explored. (Perhaps I should have even mentioned precision first in this essay, but its positioning in this paper takes nothing away from the fact that it should developed before power in my opinion.)
Sensei, with regard to precision then, I really enjoyed the example you provided us when you said to imagine that we have long knives in place of our hands on each and every strike that we make through the target. I really love this imagery as it pertains to our strikes be they in kata or in sparring. This is something that I now constantly envision in my mind’s eye. It really makes me think of penetrating the target, and allows me to stay focused with each and every movement.
In sum, when precision is developed first and then applied with force, precision then becomes force in its exactness. And finally, some overall and general comments are as follows: When doing kata, I learned that it is essential and important to vary the speed and duration of movements from set to set. By vary I mean that kata should not all be done the same way over and over again. A great example that you shared with us is to do Sanchin slow and easy in one set, then in another set fast and hard, then in another set fast and easy and so on and so forth. Not only does this break students out the “mold” of doing things just “one way,” but it forces them to use muscle groups at different rates of speed and tension– or “no tension” as the case may be.
I feel that varying kata in such ways will help to develop smooth, free-flowing automatic performances in all kata, bankai and kumite. In terms of kumite—the same concepts should apply. Dan kumite or any kumite for that matter should never be done just one way simply because the real world dictates that “fights” are never just one way. Some kumite should be slow, some fast, some hard, some soft. The point is to mix it up while still maintaining the precision of movement described in the foregoing section.
The same holds true of sparring and even bankai applications like Seisan Bankai or Kanshiwa Bankai. I feel that mixing it up forces one to think outside of the martial arts box. In addition, I really am looking forward to adding new techniques and attacks to the aforementioned bankai and kumite as furtherance to thinking outside of that box as it is often stated. Moreover, this keeps Uechi fresh and alive with new ideas and techniques making it even more fun and creative. If we keep it fun and creative this will lead to longevity of study and commitment to excellence. Sensei Mattson, all of us would like to thank you once again for a wonderful, fun and enlightening weekend. I know that as we advance through the ranks, there will be even more to learn in the process of what I like to call a never-ending process. In other words, on-going learning gives rise to fun learning that should be perpetual and continual.
I also understand that the basics, the core, and the foundation of what we do as I described herein, must always continue to be focused on and developed as we progress in our studies of Uechi-ryu Karate.
Permanent link to this article: http://uechi-ryu.com/pete-nasons-essay/
Mar 30 2004
Dear Mr. Mattson:
First, let me say that I truly enjoyed the two days of Uechi-Ryu seminars that you provided to us here in Chicago. Your knowledge and years of experience are greatly appriciated.
Second, in response to your request to write down our thoughts on what we learned at the seminars, I would like to share with you the following thoughts:
The first thing that you emphasized was “A Return to the Basics.” constantly throughout the seminar you always wents back to the very basics of Uechi-Ryu Karate-Do and its Katas. Proper form in Sanchin was always stressed in regards to arm positioning, whether the Sanchin stance was too wide or too narrow, and whether one was properly balanced in his/her Sanchin stance. We all know what proper form is, or at least we like to think we know what it is, but as you pointed out at the seminar one has to constantly be aware of proper form and stance or bad habits creep in over time that later on become very difficult to correct.
Next, was proper body mechanics, or the execution of strikes and stepping in Sanchin. Again, emphasis was put on form, but also something else that I found very easy to understand, but very difficult to execute to, although Mr. Kahn has worked very hard with me to develop, and that is one’s strength and proper stance comes from locking into proper Sanchin positioning, and not from any muscle strength we may, or may not, have. For example, my shoulder’s pop-up because I like the feel of generating power with my shoulder while executing my Sanchin strikes, which then translates into the rest of my strikes in all my Kata. However, what you emphasized is that shoulders must be down and power generated from the hips as well as appling the principles of TC (i.e Tourque & Compression).
Further, powerful Sanchin strikes are also produced from acceleration, which I understood it as different from speed. Speed as I understand it usually I aasociate with muscle force and, sometimes, lack of focus in the strike. However, what you were teaching us was that we needed to be relaxed. That our strikes needed to accelerate with power that then culminates at the end with a focused attack that has behind it all of our generated strength and power. Yet, all of this is performed with no muscle strength.
A point you made continually through the seminar is that its ok to be powerful when you are young because a young practitioner needs to get it out of his system so to speak. That it is when you are young that one can muscle through Karate, and have the strong strikes and kicks, but when you get older and more experienced in your Karate power can be generated, and I would argue more power, through proper Sanchin form, rotation of hips, bladding of Sanchin strikes and accelerating one’s punches and kicks into one focused attack.
It is these basics that you taught us, and brought as back to, as well as putting a new and fresh perspective on proper Sanchin form and the generating of power through focused acceleration that made a very great impressing on me.
Next, I liked what I termed “Reality Katare.” What you taught us is the same thing Sensei Kahn has been teaching us, which is, that in a fight our big beautiful flowery blocks will not block nothing. With the rush of adreniline and the suddeness of your opponent’s attacks, one’s blocks must be short, sweet and effective. A circle block on an initial attack, as in Kyu Kumite, becomes simply one’s arms popping up into Sanchin position protecting your body and face. We execute big circle block because in the heat of battle that big block will compress into a small block, but whether big or small it MUST be effective!
The exercises we performed, through the use of Kyu Kumite, showed us the suddeness of attacks and the effectiveness, or ineffectiveness, of our blocks when we attempted to protect ourselves against attacks we knew were coming and from what side of our opponent’s body. I learned that one must “Get His Arms Up” and into proper position, i.e. Sanchin Arm Positioning, so as to execute a proper block.
Further, you emphasized that in our guide blocks, we must not break the center-line of our bodies as this takes us out of Sanchin, which decreases our power, as well as not to block with our palm, but our whole forearm.
After, these concepts and principles were hammered home with Sanchin and the Kyu-Kumite exercises, we moved into Kata.
When it came to Kata we again returned to the basics in perfoming, and making sure we performed, traditional katas. This was very much welcomed as Sensei Kahn has always emphasized that good traditional kata must be perfomed with varying levels of acceleration and intensity. Kanchiwa is only perfomed a certain way, Seisan is only perfomed a certain way, etc. This is what we at Chicago Uechi-Ryu have constantly been working on, i.e. to perfect our Katas as much as possible.
Yet your approach to Kata was predicated upon your teachings on Sanchin. Foe what we do in Sanchin translated to our Katas. If we cannot generate power and proper acceleration in Sanchin we will not do it in the remainder of our Katas. This means that if we have been muscling it in Sanchin we will do the same in Kanchu, Seisan, etc. Thus, all goes back to Sanchin.
What impressed me the most is the porper body mechanics and balance one gets from Sanchin, which you showed us, and how this flows into all aspects of our Karate. In fact, what came through the seminars, from day one, was that you were teaching us from the ground up. Proper Sanchin means proper Kata. Proper Kata means properly executed strikes, blocks and kicks. Properly executed techniques means properly executed free fighting (i.e. sparring). Finally, proper free sparring means proper Karate-do that will protect you if the need arises, which will then allow you to live and go home in one piece.
Also, the over-arching theme, at least as I interpreted it, was acceleration and fluidity. Blocking and countering as one sigle flowing movement, and being able to sustain this fludity and acceleration from technique to technique. Further, what I also noticed that was taught, but may have not been called this, was “Imagination.” What I mean by this is that many of us get “Locked” into doing Kata and Kumite and Bunkai a certain way. We anticipate certain punches coming from certain sides as well as certain kicks coming at us with a certain speed. That locks us into many bad habits.
Constantly throughout the seminar you taught us that if your hands are up and in proper Sanchin positioning it should not matter what the technique is and off of what side it comes–YOU WILL BE ABLE TO BLOCK IT! This is imagination. It forces the student to think on his feet and act on the fly. In fact, this is the very essence of our Karate. We do not do the Katas and the Bunkais for the sake of doing them, but to learn the techniques they give us and to apply them in avarity of ways in any given situation and altercation that may arise.
This is why, I believe you gave us all a piece of Seisan Bunkai and told us to put a variation on that piece of it that you gave us. One Bushkin to the face turns into many bushkins to the face, nose or throat. Also, after performing the Bushkins, you opponent is now dazed as well as injured, and, if the situation calls for it, add a take-down with a finishing move, etc. This is where the student’s imagination is allowed to run free and it must run free otherwise they are just fancy looking techniques that are not applied in the real world (i.e. Reality Karate) nor applied properly (i.e. Basics). In fact, I would argue that a student’s imagination, in the application of his Karate, is the very goal in the practice of Karate.
This is what I got out of the seminars Sensei Mattson. I hope I understood what you were attempting to teach us, and I will endeavor to apply what you taught us in my Karate. However, Sensei Kahn does a good job of keeping us all on the right track.
Very Truly Yours
Peter A. Papoutsis
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