exploringkarate

I've been a keen karate student for 16 years, Shukokai and Shotokan, but there still seems to be no shortage of things to learn and explore. I'm hoping this blog will allow me to share my experiences and hear other martial artists thoughts.

Archive for Keinosuke Enoeda

Learning to to see the whole picture

In Chris Denwood’s excellent book ‘Respecting the Old, Creating the New’ there is a Chapter called ‘Transitional Aspects of Kata‘. When I read it a couple of weeks ago late on a Friday night the mental fatigue from time spent on the day job drained away and the excitement of some fresh aspects of Karate to explore and understand further replaced it. What I took from the Chapter was the value in looking at everything held in the kata which includes the movements that connect the techniques.

Thinking about that idea in relation to the first Shukokai kata I learnt, Shiotsuki No.1, made me think about a video I’d seen of Keinosuke Enoeda demonstrating Kuzushi Waza. In Shiotsuki No.1 after a down block, gedan barai, you step forward with a punch to the body, chudan tsuki. I’d understood that the stepping movement brought the added shift of body weight to the punch but perhaps that doesn’t make full use of using the knee at the end of the step to strike the opponent and disrupt their balance.

It also got me thinking about about the crescent shaped path of the stepping foot we use in Karate. This was emphasised in my Shotokan training as being important in preventing unnecessary rising of the body when stepping. And I love the feeling of that strong forward motion. But maybe that motion also allows the foot to manoeuvre round lower leg of your opponent to  place you leg behind theirs to have the option of a throw like Byobudaoshi (to topple a folding screen) or Kubiwa (to encircle the neck).

I’ve deliberately used ‘perhaps’and ‘maybe’ above as I could be on totally the wrong track but they were thoughts that struck me and I’ve enjoyed taking a bit of time to see how they feel when I try them out in a bit of solo practise. Even on a frosty December night it was good to spend a bit of time seeing how different combinations from the variations of Shiotsuki seemed to work with a free standing bag as the focus.

So I find myself very thankful to Chris for sharing his thoughts and suggesting a different way to look at kata and find new applications to practise.

Has anything given you a fresh perspective on Karate recently?

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Inspiration comes from many places (2)…1960s Tokyo

A speculative search on eBay for books about Karate threw up Moving Zen by CW Nicol. It looked like a really interesting book so I ordered it and it arrived late last week. At 151 pages it looked like something I could read quite quickly so I made a start on Friday and have eagerly ploughing my way through it since. Nicol decided to head to Tokyo after taking part in an artic expedition keen to continue his studies in Judo and start studying Karate. Ultimately he decides to focus on Karate and his book is a fascinating account of his studies.

It’s great to get a glimpse of what studying Karate in the 1960s was like and the people involved. I had a real feeling of excitement when Nicol comes across great martial artists like Donn Draeger, Keinosuke Enoeda, and Hirokazu Kanazawa who I’d heard about previously.

As a Karateka it’s reassuring to follow Nicol’s account of his studies and see a similar journey as he initially focuses on his striking techniques but then as his understanding of Karate grows he understands more the value of kata.

Once I’ve finished reading it through first time around I plan to read it through again chapter by chapter and consider more deeply Nicol’s journey and his realisations about Karate but it leaves me with an even greater sense of the heritage of the art that I’m studying.

From which sources has your inspiration come recently?

Inspiration comes from many places…Azerbaijan!

I work on a computer at work so for a long time it just wasn’t a big priority to have a computer at home. But since getting online properly at home last year I’ve enjoyed having the internet available to me to find useful resources about Karate.

I’ve really enjoyed looking through the wealth of videos on YouTube from all styles of martial arts but particularly those about karate. I’m sure we’ve all seen videos that really inspire us to work that extra bit harder as we aspire to emulate the skills we see.

I found a video of kumite between Keinosuke Enoeda vs Hirokazu Kanazawa and it really seemed to show the full range of techniques available in karate being executed in a way I hadn’t really seen before. Sure I’ve practised the techniques in class or read about them in books but to see them being used so fluidly was a real lightbulb moment.

A couple of weeks ago a karateka I met and was fortunate to train with at a seminar called Pete Watson shared a link to one of his kumite bouts and again I found it really energising to see that fluidity of following the feints with the ura mawashi geri. Now if I can get even partway to executing that kick with the control and precision Pete does I’ll be very happy but seeing it done well makes me want to work harder.

Finally a few days ago Pete also shared a link to a video of Rafael Aghayev, a karateka from Azerbaijan, which I thought was fantastic. The speed of his attacks are just breathtaking and what I take away to want to incorporate more are the fluidity of his punching attacks and his use of takedowns and grappling and taking control of the bout in general. In a similar way to the Enoeda vs Kanazawa footage it’s inspiring to see the whole range of karate techniques being used.

At the moment I’m referencing Funakoshi’s Karate-do Kyohan in working on a combination to demonstrate as part of my next grading and it includes some great sections on grappling. It just seems to fit really well that I can see those techniques being used so effectively whether it be decades ago or now in the present, and be it by karateka from Japan, Azerbaijan or closer to home down the motorway from good old Liverpool.

Following the footsteps of masters

I came across the Sir Isaac Newton quote ‘If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants.’ and it got me thinking about the masters of Karate who shaped the karate I study.

Robin L. Reilly’s Complete Shotokan Karate has some geneological tables for the main karate styles so you start to see who different masters studied under. Having identified Shigeru Kimura as a key figure in Shukokai I’ve found he was taught by Chōjirō Tani who in turn was taught by Miyagi Chōjun & Kenwa Mabuni.

For Shotokan I was a member of the KUGB for whom Keinosuke Enoeda acted as Chief Instructor, he was taught by Masatoshi Nakayama who was taught by Gichin & his son Yoshitaka Funakoshi. Gichin Funakoshi was taught by Yasutsune Azato & Anko Itosu. As a curious student straight away that gives me a great many masters to look into further and I’ve already picked up a number of Gichin Funakoshi’s books.

Newton’s quote isn’t really appropriate to my case as I will never attain the level of skill these masters developed but I find the opportunities to try and learn from them just one of the exciting aspects of Karate.