Thursday, April 07, 2005

Thoughts on hachidan

Everyone asked the same question when I arrived the dojo on Weds: "Why are you not in Bogu??"

I only took off my face mask a minute ago, and still got a lot of attention with my casual wear. I told Wong-sensei I am too sick. Kishigawa sensei even tried to kick me out...!!

Anyway, I made it to the dojo and planned to observe the class. I missed the day before already - Inoue Shigeaki sensei from Nara is visiting Hong Kong for 3 days, and today it's the last day which he is joining the practice.

Inoue sensei is the meaty yet not-tall type of hachidan. The most surprising thing is, he instructed the session in English. Yamada-sensei's Japanese-Cantonese translation is uhmmm making more confusion!!

The first hour is about.. Kihon... Ashi-sabaki, te-no-uchi, then suburi. Only at the last 10 mins was men-uchi in bogu (slightly regret I didn't bring my bogu..!) Everyone, from a beginner to nanadan, was doing the same kind of exercise. In front of a hachidan hanshi, everyone is just a student.

Initially Inuoe sensei was giving the "Mae" "Ato" commands, but then when fumikomi was added in, he is not happy about the sound of it. When doing fumikomi, we have to be able to step out at the "Ma" of "Mae"... so to speak.

There were three types of 3-step suburi:
Shinai up > step in and cut > zanshin
Step and raise shinai > cut > zanshin
One rythme > zanshin

Cutting straight is important as it is the shortest distance available.
Koshi is at the same horizontal level, not sinking down when taking a step in.
Right hand grip is so soft that we can move it up and down the tsuka. Because our energy is coming from the arms and not the hands. We were also told to try cutting with right hand only by using the arm to draw an arc.

As I said that lasted for 45 mins or so, then onto bogu, was a few rounds of men-uchi in pairs. Sensei told us to check all posture, kamae and spirit. These are the 3 main elements they check during shinsa.

There's an interesting point being made about people moving there head when they strike (I know I do). Sensei said that is like drawing a circle without a centre. It is not solid and have no balance.

Onto the next thing is kirikaeshi. "Think, think, think!" We were told to keep everything in mind. Hands in the centre? Posture all correct? Using the arms?

There were around 25-30 people there for jikeiko in 30 mins. Mainly the senior grades got Inoue sensei but the queue went quickly so maybe around 10+ people get the chance. I was told that the day before it was mainly about kata - so I suspect no one really practiced with him...
The other Sunday while I came early and spied at the door, I saw the same senior grades practising against each other. Some of them are just strong. Yet this day watching them against Inoue sensei, I realized that they are not 100% unbeatable.

Yamada was on first. For the first 20 seconds or so it looked like a equal level match, with no movement at to-maai... And I thought, "Now THAT's what I call a hachidan.." Until Yamada made the first move and got countered...

Noticeably, Kishigawa got a lot of kaeshi dou from Inoue sensei, despite almost getting a tsuki as shodachi (!) The kaeshi dou was timed sooooo well that the block was only an inch away from his men, and Kishigawa's shinai went off centre...

Against Eda, Inoue sensei told her to "cut me on the shoulder", and that she should use the same principle to cut kote.

Being very fast, Derek was the only one getting the uchikomi-keiko treatment.

.... and there goes many other senior people. But no matter how senior they are to me, they are not 100% perfect, and do sometimes shows an opening or two. Inoue sensei just made that happened.

This time there are people I have seen from other dojo participating (who are unrelated to the squad). This gives me a motivation to attend the Sunday morning keiko. Still there are a lot of them I haven't practice with in Hong Kong. It is not as small as I thought.

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