WTKO SUMMER CAMP w/ SENSEI RICHARD AMOS
I apologize for this getting out so late. This is part one of a two part summary of the special WTKO Summer Camp that was held last week at the Japanese Karate-Do. Sensei Richard Amos was the guest instructor for the WTKO Summer Camp.
The day started a little cool for a rainy, mid-summer day. The special WTKO Summer Seminar, was already in session. Everyone’s attention was completely focused on Sensei Amos’ words and movements.
The seminar started with work on the basic blocks in Shotokan. Sensei Amos began by working through Age Uke (the rising head block). One of the elements emphasized was the need for fluid motion and rolling within or through the technique while keeping the body properly connected. The need to remove the choppiness – the stopping and starting within the technique, especially when transitioning from one technique into another was explained and demonstrated.
This focus was continued as we worked through the other blocks – soto uke (outside/inside middle block), ouchi uke (inside/outside middle block), gedan barai (downward block), as well as the blocking/striking combinations. Another element that was emphasized was that when making each block and strike we also need to focus on what the opposite hip is doing. It plays a big factor in the generation of power and a balanced connection with the body. We need to have a “dynamic comfortableness” that causes a seamless, rotation in our techniques and allows us to be comfortable and powerful utilizing different foot/hand timings (foot landing before the hand connects, hand striking before the foot lands, etc. It was pointed out that we also need to get comfortable with the varying timing-striking distances due to the nature of where each person is within a real combat situation.
Another point that was worked through was the use of techniques as “body training methods”. Sometimes we should train with exaggerated movement to help the body get used to knowing what it needs to do. And, learning to balance the body and its movements within and throughout a technique by getting the body to use compression and expansion or a “drawing in and popping out” sensation within your techniques. After the natural drawing in, the resulting naturalness of popping out, as with other techniques, is to send out the technique in order to get the sharp naturalness and be able to coordinate the timing needed to properly engage our opponent.
This drawing in and popping out and realizing what the opposite side of the body is doing was demonstrated as we executed the blocking/striking drills. Uchi uke (inside/outside middle block) drills were perfect examples, due to the distinct working of opposite sides. However, it was pointed out that each aspect of the technique is to be completed as one movement, not several distinct movements. By understanding and putting into practice 1). the opposite body engagement, 2). the body mechanics of drawing in and popping out and 3). the seamlessness of complete techniques, we start moving away from simply creating forms and move into performing fluid and functional techniques.
As Sensei Amos discussed proper opponent engagement, he naturally moved us into our session on kumite (sparring). As Sensei Amos explained there must be relaxed, harmony when sparring. We must “move in a way that doesn’t expose ourselves or waste energy.” It was explained that where the mind is, our body and our energy goes. If we lock our joints in punching, for instance, our mind is stopping our technique at the end of the strike; we may have a tendency to lock our elbow. This essentially stops our energy at our elbow, making our elbow the dominant factor in our strike and causing our strike to be stiff. This also causes the arm in the case of a punch or in the case of a kick to lack full extension.
When our techniques are unnatural and our energy is not focused correctly, we lack of harmony with both our body and with our opponent. So, whether attacking or defending, the goal is to engage our opponent with dynamic comfortableness.