Thursday, April 04, 2019


I look back at 2018 and find I didn’t really blog at all in 2018.  Why?
Was it because I was lazy? Uninspired? I had nothing to talk about?  No.  It was a transition year.  I think I say that a lot.  My karate is always changing, transitioning.

Since 2014, I have been working to incorporate Shinzato Sensei’s latest principles into my karate.  It has felt like a 180 and there have definitely been times of frustration.  Here I am in 2019 and I don’t really feel I’ve made much progress.  Thinking back to my years in Kishaba Juku, it has always been thus.  I work to try to figure out a concept, then boom! New concept arrives and I have to try and figure that out.  This is the crux of Kishaba and Shinzato Sensei’s methods. You can’t rest on your laurels or think that you have it figured out, because as soon as you do, they change it up!

You might say, this goes against Traditional Karate methods of passing kata down from teacher to student without ever changing it...keeping the lineage pure.  This is not the way of Kishaba Juku. Instead, we look to constantly improve and refine.

For me the hardest part right now is to work on a simple relax and extend concept.  Relax, relax, relax, then extend. I never thought relaxing could be so hard!

As for the Dojo, we have a very small group at this time.  Everyone has their lives that keep them busy, including me.  We already only train two nights per week, but lately it seems we have more gaps in between than actual training time.

I hope to blog more this year. I hope to train a lot more this year. I hope to gain a working knowledge of Sensei’s new ideas.  Most of all I hope everyone has a great 2019!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018


This is the first post in over a year!  I just did not feel much like posting last year, I suppose.  Classes at the dojo are small, these days.  We usually have 2-4 people, per class.  I hope that number will grow a little this year.

Mostly, we have been working on Shinzato Sensei's relaxed koshi principles.  These are pretty much 180 degrees reverse of what we practiced for years.  Someday, I may write about some of the transitions we have made throughout the years, but not today.

Here are a few ideas from our training at this time...

  • Start relaxed, stay relaxed, end relaxed
  • Open the koshi and let the joints relax.
  • Don't use muscular strength. Align the bones and simply extend.
  • Sink, then sink a little more, and extend. 
  • To transfer power, extend more quickly.
  • Let the top half of the body float on the bottom half.
  • Keep your centerline vertical.
  • "Test" the techniques with a partner to see if you can extend or retract them easily without tensing.
  • Don't tuck, don't squeeze, don't use your shoulders, don't wiggle your hips, don't over-extend, don't rotate, don't breathe hard and don't push.
  • Believe that it can work

We still do a lot of Naihanchi!

Happy 2018!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Haven't Posted in a Very Long Time

It's been over a year since the last time I posted anything here. At the Dojo we've mostly been working on relaxing and re-engineering our koshi principles to be in line with the way Shinzato Sensei is training now.

As usual, most training is centered around Naihanchi and the ideas therein.  It's a lot of work, and there are no quick results.

I have personally been spending a lot of time working on Shirotaru no Kun.  It's a very difficult, but exciting Bo kata.

Our class attendance is at an all time low as we near the 11 year mark, and I wonder if we have reached a plateau, if classes will pick back up in the new year, or if we should take it as a sign that it's time to move on...

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Progress on Naihanchi

I've been working on #Naihanchi a lot lately, trying to incorporate Sensei's relaxed power principles into my routine.  It's always hard to break old habits and do things a different way, but I usually learn something new in the process.

Here's a video clip from 2006 doing Naihanchi when our Dojo was on Orange Avenue.

Naihanchi Shodan 2006 - Orange Avenue Dojo

When I watch this now, I can see that I was able to generate pretty good power in my techniques, and they were well connected to the movement of my koshi, but I see a lot of lateral movement in my knees and a lack of connection of my elbows to my koshi.

Fast forward a few years and here I am, doing Naihanchi again...this time in our new Dojo on Capital Circle NW.

Naihanchi Shodan Jan 2010 - Capital Circle NW Dojo

This one is a little different, but still lateral knee movement.

Since about Dec. 2010, I've been working to change a number of body dynamics.  Here is a clip from 2014.

Naihanchi Shodan 2014

I think this one demonstrates pretty good connection, speed and power.  It seems to flow well.  It's not very relaxed though. I can see the tension in my shoulders and I was definitely tucking my koshi and squeezing my lats.

Here are a couple I took last night.  The first one is slow, focusing on relaxing everything and extending my technique from the connection between my elbow and my koshi.  The second one is the same idea only faster and throwing my technique off my koshi from the connection.

Naihanchi Shodan - April 2014 - Slow/Relaxed

Naihanchi Shodan - April 2014 - Faster/Relaxed

Needless to say, it's not where I want it to be yet.  There's a little too much hip rotation, instead of making that figure-8 koshi motion more internal.  There's still a little lateral knee movement, too.  I will continue to work, but I think it's a long way from 2006. 

If I can find some video from long ago, I might post that to show how my Naihanchi looked in say, 1983-1997.  That might take a while to dig up...

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Learning to Relax

For the last several years, I've been focusing on trying to do karate in a much more relaxed fashion.

For years I practiced to try to make a very fast and powerful technique by analyzing various body dynamics and ways to use my koshi (the area surrounding my pelvic girdle) to augment my power.  This process was very involved and complex and it took years for me to get some understanding of it.  I must say that I never really mastered it to the degree of satisfaction I would like.

Fortunately, in 2010, one of our fellow Kishaba Juku practitioners made the journey to Okinawa again to train with Shinzato Sensei, and like those old Chinese Envoys who took the Quan to Loochoo (Ryukyu) hundreds of years ago, he brought back information on Sensei's latest advancements in his study of Karate.

To say these new ideas (principles) were revolutionary for me would be an understatement, because I have been working on them ever since and not making the kind of progress I would like.  They are just a few principles, but they have had the effect of turning my karate training on its head, and really making me rethink how I train.  They include:
  • 50/50 stances (all stances derived from naihanchi)
  • Maintaining the centerline
  • Throwing the elbow off the koshi
  • Breaking balance/Dropping
  • Figure 8 koshi
  • Relaxing!
The first 5 are what I initially took away from our Okinawan Envoy's journey, but the 6th one, relaxing, is what really is at the core of all the other 5.

I will probably spend some time talking about the first 5 at length in other posts, but in this post I'd like to focus on the 6th one, which, if taken in order of importance, should really be the 1st one.  

Anyway, here goes...

What does it mean to be relaxed in karate?

As karateka, we seem to constantly pursue making a more powerful and faster technique.  We want to be able to hit the heavy bag hard with a technique that penetrates.  We also want that technique to get to our target fast.  Unfortunately, doing this can have a tendency to develop tenseness in our technique. We tend to focus on using the muscles to make the technique.  We can get more speed and power by coordinating the technique with the rotation (and counter-rotation) of our hips, but if we are tense throughout the motion, the technique is held back by that tension.  Also, if we use only the muscles, we can only get so fast and powerful.

To really make power and speed, we have to relax.  It seems so counter-intuitive, but relaxing is the key.  All muscles have to stay relaxed throughout the motion, and the only tension should occur at the point of contact.  In that split second all the power of your body combines in that one striking point.  It's like Mr. Miyagi says in Karate Kid, "power of whole body, one inch..."

Sounds simple enough, right?  It's not.  Before you can find the way to make tension at the right moment, first you have to learn to relax.  Trying to relax throughout the performance of a kata is a very difficult thing.  There is a problem with relaxing, though. You have to learn to relax without compromising body structure. This is where the other 5 principles I list above come in.  But that will be the topic of another discussion.

For now, just relax.

Relax the knees. Feel bouncy.
Relax the koshi. Don't squeeze.
Relax the back.
Relax the lats.
Relax the shoulders.
Relax the neck.
Relax the arms.
Relax the hands. Don't squeeze them tight.
Relax your breathing.
Relax your mind.
Now make your first move in the kata...

Begin it relaxed. Stay relaxed as you move through. End the movement relaxed.