This September's Pontesbury course saw many KazokuKai students in attendance who wanted to experience the Shorin Ryu karate which is continually being learned by a small part of our group in Okinawa. Sensei Derek Ridgway (Kyoshi) and Sensei Dave Wilkins (Renshi) had got together to deliver an in-depth look at three of the Kobayashi Kata which had been taught to them by Master Arakaki himself in Okinawa - Naihanchin Shodan, Passai Sho and Kusanku Sho.

During our time spent in Okinawa, many times have we performed an exercise called "kushinundo", followed by many punches and kicking. The course began in true Okinawan spirit with an introductory amount of squats, punches and kicks. The holistic benefit of these squats (when performed correctly) has long been recognised by the Okinawans, Japanese and more recently even western doctors who now advise people that it is beneficial for health - slow performance helps to pump the blood around the body and feed the muscles with essential nutrients.This combination of kushinundo, punching and kicking can easily be incorporated into any warm-up routine to bring home some of the traditional Okinawan training methods.
kata practice group pic girls get stuck in
Naihanchin Shodan is the core kata in the Kobayashi system that is practised regularly to develop strong karate bodies and the ability to move freely while synchronising the upper-body movements with a strong, rooted stance (Naihanchin-dachi). The kata is akin to the powerful Sanchin (3 battles) kata which exists in most other karate systems and often incorporates heavy conditioning and testing of an individual whilst performing the individual movements. The same can be seen with Naihanchin and the students are tested at each move to check the integrity of technique and ensure that the entire body is at its optimum natural position for maximising strength, balance and power. All movements from other kata are derived from the Naihanchin series and so correct performance and regular practice of this single kata is imperative when trying to improve our Shorin Ryu karate ability.

Naihanchin is a popular kata in karate and many systems have a similar version of their own, derived from this original version. The main points of difference usually being the stance, attention to detail and a slight difference in some of the positions, timing and performance. Over the years, this kata has inevitably been watered down to make it easier to teach, learn and to also styalise it. There is no doubt that the Okinawan subtleties, which remain in this kata, enhance the overall spirit and energy; many, many little tweaks which drive us with positivity. Understanding and mastery of this kata alone lends to unlocking the many secrets held within this intriguing, traditional system. Many people foolishly overlook training this important kata series.

Passai Sho is an intricate kata which incorporates many twists and turns using subtle footwork and hip movement. The routine is quite complex with a variety of different techniques to push the body and mind somewhat. To start with, a lot of concentration is required to stay focused on the many changes in direction and the unusual body and hand positions but when the techniques start to become more comfortable and familiar, and with confidence of the order and sequence, a lot of power can be felt in it's performance. Again it teaches us the importance of good footwork in conjunction with proper timing and technique. Minute changes in posture have huge effects on balance and power.

Each student was advised and shown how to personally improve their own techniques by testing each other in partner-work, making small adjustments to stance, hips, trunk, head and arm positions. Every technique in the Passai Sho kata was demonstrated, analysed and advised to this degree so that everyone had an understanding of how to work towards their own unique optimum performance. This level of scrutiny was also introduced whilst performing the kata as well as on a move-for-move basis. It was advised that people should introduce this strategy when performing their own kata to enhance every performance rather than it becoming routine or rote. It is best done with a partner but can also work to some degree on your own in-front of training mirrors.
painfull seniors having fun well done
In addition to the kata, a sequence of continual bunkai was demonstrated to help identify the many fighting techniques hidden within the kata. Various strikes, throws, locks and blocks were highlighted to show the devastating reality that such a smooth-flowing pattern can offer. The Go-Ju principal of hard and soft is mirrored in kata; a dance-like performance which can be stripped down scientifically and converted into a practical self-defence package which works as an aid to further understand the kata and also works as real-life aid to survival should the need ever unfortunately arise.

With Naihanchin Shodan and Passai Sho both expertly taught to our regular Kazokukai members and also several new members alike, the final installation of "Kusanku Sho" was delivered on the final day of training. This is one of the more advanced Shorin Ryu Kata and a general overview was provided to help with learning and not over-saturate peoples minds with too much detail on the last day. A general re-cap saw the performance and integration of everything that had been taught so that people had the best opportunity to redress any details they where unsure of before departing for home.

As with all Pontesbury courses, the atmosphere was consistently very friendly with students keen to learn what was on offer. Food and drink was provided to a great standard and accommodation in the hall provided opportunity for us all to get to know each other on a more personal level which really bolstered the training atmosphere. Good tuition of this Okinawan-taught Shorin Ryu is extremely scarce in the UK. We are very lucky to have access to this kind of tuition from such highly regarded, world-renowned instructors. Our thanks to Sensei Ridgway and Sensei Wilkins for providing such a refined insight to Okinawan Shorin Ryu karate.

Special thanks to those who trained on all sessions provided by both senior instructors. There is so much to take from the Shorin Ryu style, many people have been invigorated by what it has to offer. Posters and flyers have been circulated and it was mentioned at the course that anyone wishing to travel to Okinawa around Aug/Sep of next year (2012) to please forward their names to Dave Wilkins or Lauren Frearson (Leicester Karate Club) who are organising the tour and training. No deposits are required as yet but people should now register an interest to help pre-empt the accommodation requirements so we can all be in one hotel together. This is expected to be a big International tour with a lot of interest from UK members, Germany and possibly Canada.