Course & Grading with Ohta Sensei, assisted by JKA England Seniors Adel Ismail and Roy Tomlin
Ohta Sensei started with a useful measure for approximating front stance: by stepping three and a half foot lengths, bending the front knee to cover the big toe, keeping the foot’s outer edge pointing forward. The first hour was basics and upper body work. After hip rotation exercises came punches and blocks. Jun tsuki progressed to sanbon tsuki which brought the hip exercises into their own. Sensei stressed the importance of cushioning the energy of the first punch using the back knee and hip, rotating further into full front-facing to generate energy in the second and vibrating again to make power for the third. At the outset Sensei’s comment was that everybody’s hips looked the same from one punch to the next! Hopefully there was some improvement with further repetitions!
A partner kumite exercise was next, using these basics: Both sides from left leg forward, hands kamae position. Attacker: left kizami tsuki, step sanbon tsuki. Defender: left age uke, step backwards with right soto uke, gedan barai, shuto uke and countering nukite.
During the second session, we moved on through kicks: mae geri, yoko geri keage and kekomi then mawashi geri, before working through the complete basics syllabus required for 1st Dan.
Ohta Sensei chose to focus on the kata Heian Godan which he broke down into sections, indicating key points and incorporating exercises to help ‘get the feeling’ for each position. Partner work followed for application. Then, before it was our turn to practise the kata in its entirety, Sensei demonstrated it beautifully for us.
For a Dan grading, as well as a candidate’s own choice of kata, JKA examiners pick either a Heian or Tekki Shodan kata to perform too. Often, this kata is taught on the same day as the grading.
After another short break, kata groups were formed for Bassai Dai, Jion and Nijushiho, with Ohta Sensei teaching the latter. After practise and some more bunkai explanation, each group got up in turn, to perform in front of everybody, with a Squad team kata demonstration to round off at the end.
This course was a superb taster for the forthcoming international course in May, which will feature Ohta Sensei and other top JKA instructors from around the world.
The long drive home featured a brief stop off at Stonehenge and a sneaky trip to McDonalds! (Perhaps not the healthiest post-exercise snack in the world but when you’ve trained as hard as we did, you can easily accommodate a few extra calories without feeing guilty.)