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Our Long Break from Karate Training

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Well this has certainly been a long break from karate training for all of us, eh?  Recently, the state is beginning to reopen in phases, so there’s hope that sometime in the future (weeks? a month?) we’ll be able to train again, perhaps with new social distancing rules, with no kiaiing, and maybe masks -we’ll see. In looking forward to that day, I’ll bet that that returning to the dojo that first time, it’s going to feel strange putting the old karate gi on, lining up (6’ apart) and doing warmups.  I’m sure that everyone has gotten a little rusty during this time. Actually, on those few occasions that I’ve driven on the freeway at night, it felt almost like I was driving somewhere new.  As bad as this time seems, our mandatory break from training pales in comparison to a training break that happened to the art just as it was growing in Japan. From 1922-1941, the Founder’s karate classes had enjoyed increasing popularity and spread to universities throughout Japan.  Then, in 1941, something called World War II came along, which was to essentially shut down the master’s karate for years, and nearly lead to its dissipation. Descriptions about the beginning of the [...]

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Carrying on Asai Sensei’s Tradition

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Throughout his life, Asai Sensei studied and became proficient in many different martial arts.  Over time, as masters often do, he developed his own personal budo, or perhaps better described as bujutsu – focused on the most effective techniques to use in combat situations.  Meanwhile, as Chief Instructor of the JKA, he continued to teach the core Shotokan syllabus occasionally adding in certain techniques of his own, especially with advanced students. I think that you’ll find the video below interesting.  Andre Bertel a Shotokan instructor from New Zealand.  He gives seminars around the world and is a gifted karateka who is devoted to sharing the art.  If you watched the previous Asai Sensei video, I think that you’ll see his distinct influence on this young man.  Asai spent a lot of time conducting one-on-one training with Andre, sharing his particular flavor of budo.  Remember, these are controlled strikes and kicks, however the uke (the guy on the receiving end) needs to be ready and in good shape. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E1rlSCxI7nU

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The Aikido of Master Gozo Shioda

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While watching Asai Sensei and his amazing demonstration of waza in my last note, I was reminded of another master whose movements I admired many decades ago.  No, he wasn’t another karate sensei – he was a long-time instructor in a certain flavor of Aikido.  Previously, I’ve shared links to video of Aikido Founder Ueshiba and one of his top disciples, Tohei Sensei.  They taught what could be called more classical Aikido, which was what I trained in as a teenager.  However, we young students were aware of another Aikido system with a reputation for being a faster, more dynamic version of the art that included atemi (striking technique).  The creator and chief instructor were one of the Founder’s earliest and highest-ranking disciples, Gozo Shioda. His movements (spinning, ducking low, side-stepping) during the randori (multiple-attacker drills) were quick, spontaneous, and often initiated with a strike to the opponent’s neck or temple.  Some of you may note a similarity to Asai Sensei’s movements.  There was a sense of realism in Shioda Sensei’s form of Aikido.  He was also an alumnus of Takushoku University where so many of the JKA pioneers matriculated.  At the very least, you might enjoy the rousing soundtrack [...]