Hi Everyone…Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year! Have you noticed that during this rather unusual year, the holidays seem to go by before we even realize it?
Not having seen many of you since we ceased general classes in the Spring, it is my deepest hope and prayer that each of you is keeping safe and healthy and enjoying the Christmas Season despite some limitations on usual activities. In the summer, the sempais and senseis did hold some training sessions working out the safety protocols (temp, contact logs, masks, social distancing) for whenever it becomes safe enough to restart class. Till now, however, Oahu’s case counts continue to rise and the tier system and gathering limits has prevented normal training for all dojos, with the exception of virtual Zoom classes by a few places.
That said, outside activities are less restricted than indoors where air is recirculated. There is a hidden blessing in that our training actually occurs under a covered pavilion that is outside, exposed to fresh air. Sometime next year, after case counts have dropped, perhaps after a successful vaccination rollout, with appropriate masks and social distancing, we’ll be able to safely train together once again.
For the moment, this leaves us with self-training, where the greatest challenge for most of us lies in self-motivation. Fortunately, we can become motivated when we are inspired by others – I can’t tell you how many of your senseis were initially inspired to study the martial arts because…we watched kung fu movies, particularly those starring the late Bruce Lee🥴. Once in the dojo, we gained inspiration by training with and watching other karateka and senseis who demonstrated a high technical mastery and understanding of their bodies, distance, timing, and control. Consciously and unconsciously, we invested much effort into emulating and trying to understand what our senseis and senpais could perform with seeming ease. Back in the 60’s through early 70’s, there were no DVDs or YouTube (not even old VHS cassettes) to help us study on our own. Instead, we had to pore over photographs in books and magazines, and watch the occasional grainy B/W 8mm films of karateka from the 50’s. Today, we’re all blessed with technology that can stream master technicians into our homes.
Recently, I came across this short video that spends a few minutes showing what the producers believe to be the top five most technical masters of karate (there are many such on lists on the internet). This one was kinda interesting to me because it’s focused on Shotokan senseis Hotton, Bertel, Kanazawa, Naka, and Lavorato. Personally, my top five list would also have included Sensei Rick Hotton and Sensei Andre Bertel – I’ve shared some of their videos with you in the past. Kancho Kanazawa is the head of the SKIF and the son of the founder of our old KAH organization. Sensei Naka is a highly regarded JKA karateka. I’d never heard of Sensei Lavorato, though I was aware of fellow French pioneers from the 1960’s whom he trained with (Plee and Valera). I think that it’s worthwhile to have even just a glimpse into what these life-long practitioners of karate look like, and get a taste of their movements. It can serve to inspire us to always strive to perfect our own techniques even when we can’t train together, for the moment.
To the list, I probably would have added Sensei Kagawa, formerly of the JKA, who was appointed Chief Instructor of the JKS by the late Sensei Asai. You are already more than able to do a front thrust kick or a side thrust kick, but exactly what separates your techniques from his (besides natural ability, haha)? Just watch him demonstrate (no translation needed!) a couple of fine points about the Mae-geri and Yoko Kekomi-geri. Look closely, and you can sense that his use of hip thrust, using his supporting leg to drive in, leg/ankle flexibility, and throw-weight, give his kicks a reach and power that most of us can only dream of. Inspiration can create a vision that, coupled with effort/practice, leads to solid results. Watch and be inspired!
Mele Kelikimaka and Haouli Makahiki Hou!