Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Traditional Karate in Arizona - Looking Back at 2014

Karate kata training at the Arizona School of Traditional Karate in Mesa and Gilbert Arizona.  Kata (forms) when
practiced correctly become a living encyclopedia of self-defense applications, meditation and unmatched physical fitness.
Here, students and black belts train together in naifanchi shoran kata in 2014.
Hard to believe that 2014 is gone. Let's remember 2014 and then look forward to another year at the Arizona Hombu located in the Phoenix valley along Baseline Road at the border of ChandlerGilbert and Mesa, Arizona.

2014 began at a snails pace following the holidays. When I ran the dojo at the University of Wyoming from 1977 to 2007, this was typical. There was a large influx of students beginning in the Fall semester that would decline around Thanksgiving. Students would sporadically wander into the university dojo following the New Year and then we would see another decline at Spring Break followed by a surge followed with a decline at summer semester.

Training at the Arizona Hombu, Mesa, Arizona
At the beginning of 2007, I decided to relocate our Hombu to Arizona. Over the past decades, I taught martial arts at four different universities, and all followed the same student population declines and surges - but by opening a private dojo, I thought these fluctuations would pass - not so - it appears the entire world follows this schedule. And as far as the students who are consistent in their training and appearance at the dojo, they are the few who move on to the level of yudansha.

In 2014, we had our surges and declines, but something else happened. We lost some to the poor economy. As far as I can tell, government continues to lie about how bad our economy really is. This is one of the primary reasons why we never see politicians in traditional martial arts - its because they cannot differentiate what is right from wrong and traditional martial arts are somewhat of an enigma to them because a person must be honest.

Training in kata, Sensei Harden practices oi-zuki
Overall, we have a high level of educated people training in martial arts at our dojo primarily because of our past association with four universities.

In 2014, we had students move out of state to find work: one long-time student finally gave up and moved near his family in Florida. We also had two long-time students (engineers) transferred out-of-state by their companies because downsizing. Only a few years ago, we lost another engineer for the same reason. I have not seen any improvement in the economy since 2008 in my martial arts, geology or writing professions, and I wonder how government can get away with such a poor record.mAnyway, let's look at 2014, now that it has passed.

Tuesday nights we trained in kihon and kata. During the year, we focused on the basic kata. Periodically, we split the class into groups while I taught more advanced students and other instructors - Dai-Shihan Adam, Sensei Borea, Sensei Harden and Sensei Scofield taught other groups of different levels. In the second, or more advanced class on Tuesday nights, we focused on advanced kata including Naihanchi Shodan, Rohai, Passai Dai, Unsu and Passai Sho.

Defending against an attacker with rifle.
Throughout 2014, Wednesday nights included advanced training in self-defense as well as shitai kori for a few high-ranking members of the dojo. Shitai kori is body hardening, and the most advanced form of this part of the art was created by Dai-Soke Sacharnoski of Juko Kai International in the 20th century. Wednesday evenings we work on defense against single attackers, multiple attackers, wrestlers, street fighters and karate and jujutsu practitioners. We include against armed assailants with knifes, guns, clubs, rifles, swords, hammers, etc. Much of the self-defense is part of the bunkai from kata and we emphasize the concept of hitotsuki or basically one-punch knockouts. This is one of the major differences between traditional karate and sport karate. Traditional karate teaches karate is a weapon and one must learn to finish an attacker with power and focus with just one or two strikes. In sport karate, focus is minor and students are taught point fighting for trophies. So we teach all of our students including various women's groups and seniors, to use power. If a person cannot finish an opponent in one or two strikes, there is something wrong with their technique.

Defending against an attacker with gun
Every so often, we'll add a new training exercise such as training in the park to give them the feel for defending on various surfaces. In the past, we've even turned out the lights in the dojo and strategically placed black belt muggers in the dojo allowing students to walk through one at a time.

On Wednesdays, we also teach use of belts, towels, ropes, coins, car keys etc, for self-defense. We'll even add in a few scenarios on how to defend in close quarters - such as on an airplane - we find this to be important as we have a group of students who are engineers and several who are pilots.

Thursday evenings, we focus on Shorin-Ryu kobudo, modern kobudo and samurai arts. These are all martial arts weapons including a variety of tools found around the house and garden. During 2014, our students trained in nunchaku and we focused on this weapon for much of the year learning to use nunchaku in basics, self-defense applications and also as kata. We learned six nunchaku kata over the year and also how to apply all moves in these kata as self-defense. After spending much of the year on Nunchaku, our class began training with nitanbo and now they are focusing on kama. Kama is a common garden tool used by both Okinawan and American farmers - it is sickle. In 2014, we training in self-defense application against an attacker with a sword, club, knife and also learned Gama shodan kata. In 2015, we continue to train with kama and will soon start learning gama nidan and then gama sandan kata.

using nunchaku to defend against knife attack
In the samurai arts class, we trained with hanbo and naginata much of the year and we then started with sojutsu. Our students learned to block, strike and throw opponents with the hanbo. We learned the long yari kata and then began training with bunkai. Later this year, our samurai arts class will start to focus on jujutsu and then katana.
Defending attack using nunchuks

During 2014, we also had the Arizona-Utah Shorin-Ryu karate and kobudo clinic as well as the Utah Gassuku. We plan to have the same two annual clinics in 2015 as well as attend the Juko Kai clinic in Texas. We are also expecting visits from some of our shihan and sensei from Colorado, Massachusetts, Utah and Wyoming in 2015. I should also point out that in 2014, my fondness of rocks led me to publish another book.

Shitai kori (body hardening). This aspect
of Shorin-Ryu karate is only taught to
our most advanced students. The
basics of the art are taught at the Arizona
Hombu and more advanced applications are
taught to a few students who are invited to
attend the annual Juko Kai International 
clinic in New Braunfels, Texas. Here Chase
Cassidy, 1st degree black belt from Gillette,
Wyoming learns to accept strikes to vital
parts of the body.

If you get some free time, stop in and visit our hombu dojo - we would love to meet you.
Arizona-Utah clinic at the Arizona Hombu in Gilbert - Mesa, Arizona

Self-Defense class at the Arizona Hombu

Gama (kama) training during kobudo class at the Arizona School of Traditional Karate.

Sojutsu samurai martial arts training with yari (okinawan spear)