A visit from my Sensei
On the weekend of 25th May 2019 PDK Dojo was honoured with a visit from Sensei Con Kassis, from Kassis Karate Academy in Melbourne, to run a Kata workshop for our Shito Ryu group. Sensei Con is an 8th Dan Black Belt who trains in the Shitoryu style, which was founded by Kenwa Mabuni. Sensei Con was trained by son and successor to Kenwa Mabuni, Soke Kenei Mabuni.
It was a privilege to have Sensei Con come to PDK. This post is a summary of what we learnt, and I’ll accompany it with some footage on our social media pages. I invite all club members to read this blog as Sensei Con’s teaching can be used by everyone, whether you’re training in Shotokan or Shito-Ryu style, a beginner, competitor or somewhere in between.
1. Train smart.Don’t just train over and over without reflecting on what you do and why you’re doing it. Don’t exhaust yourself making the same mistakes. Think about what you’re doing, why you’re doing it and what it all means. Kata is an essential element of karate and must adhere to traditional values and principles. It must realistically depict fighting technique, and show concentration, power, speed, rhythm, balance and impact. You don’t have to be a world champion, or even have aspirations to be a world champion, to learn good kata technique. It’s worth doing.
2. Technique.Good karate technique is not just for world champions. You can have good technique at any level. Good technique shows mastery over your sport, it shows discipline and focus. There’s no point having a black belt if you have poor white belt technique. Work at getting it right.
3. Breathing.We don’t think about how we breathe because it’s automatic. We do it everyday just to survive. Anyone who has sat a hard exam, done a public speech or something else terrifying, will know that fast uncontrolled breathing makes it harder to think, gets you dizzy and pushes you off balance. It drives the adrenaline up and causes us to lose control. So, focus on breathing. Think about your breathing and incorporate it into your technique.
4. Stance.Our stance grounds us, gives us stability and prepares our bodies for transitions and movement. Think about where your body is in space and time and be mindful of your movement. This will make your karate convincing and give you strength and power.
5. Conformance.This means performing your kata in accordance with the form and standards of the applicable school. This is part of the assessment criteria of the world karate federation. Just because athletes are assessed in this way does not mean only athletes should train this way. At every level, practice your kata in conformance with your form and the standards of the school. Ultimately, doing good karate isn’t just about impressing judges or winning medals, it’s also about gaining mastery. This is one of karate’s benefits.
6. Kime. Kime is a Japanese word, loosely meaning ‘to decide’. In karate, kime is about focus, it is about showing correct transition, tensing, technique and power. It shows we understand what we’re doing, when we need to tense and when we need to relax. It demonstrates our understanding of the purpose of each technique and how we control our bodies.
7. Timing. Timing shows that you understand what you are learning. Kata are not dances or theatre. They mean something. Timing shows that we understand exactly what we have learned and how it is meant to be applied – that is, we know the meaning behind what we’re doing, not just a sequence of steps.
8. Transitional Movement. This is how we move from one step to another, and again shows we understand the purpose behind what we are doing. Kata are meant to demonstrate technique and our technique go beyond just getting the ‘moves right’. Technique encompasses everything - what we do, how we transition between forms, our understanding of each form, but also what we do between forms, when we stop, breathe, relax and tense. When practicing kata, remember to show correct form and technique, but also what comes between each technique.
While the weekend’s workshop was focused on Shito-Ryu Kata, these essentials can be applied to any karate style or technique. They form the basis of our sport and are fundamental to good karate. Importantly, there is no right time to start practicing good technique or doing good karate. You can practice good karate at any level and for any reason, simply for the love of the sport.