Sunday, 30 March 2014

The Dojo

The ideal of a dojo is outlined in the Budo Charter or 武道憲章 of the Japan Budo Association. The full charter can be found here.

Article 4 Dojo
The dojo is a special place for training the mind and body. In the dojo, budo practitioners must maintain discipline, and show proper courtesies and respect. The dojo should be a quiet, clean, safe and solemn environment.

The Gojuryu Karatedo Yoyogi Ryushinkan Dojo strives to be such a place. 

On a historical note, the term dojo initially designated a place used for training in Zen and other forms of Buddhism. Martial arts training was originally conducted outside.  However, over time training was brought indoors to the hallways and corridors of Samurai homes, and then, from around the 1800s, in specially designated rooms with wooden or even tatami floors - the precursor of the modern dojo

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Folding Up a Dogi

Here is a step-by-step guide to folding a dogi.  Once it is folded, you can loop your belt around it, tie a knot and sling it over your shoulder.  It isn't such a common sight anymore, as everyone now uses bags, but could be employed in a pinch.
It should also be noted that the term "gi" as used for a karate uniform in English is not readily understood in Japan.  The correct term in Japanese is "dogi," though "karategi," "judogi" and "keikogi"  can also be used, depending on the martial art. 

Judogi date from the 1820s, while references to keikogi, often worn with a hakamacan be found in texts going back at least to the 1790s.

Monday, 24 March 2014

The Philosophy of Budo

Here is the official "Philosophy of Budo" as promulgated by the Nippon Budo Kyogikai (Japan Budo Association):

"Budo, the martial arts of Japan, have origins in the traditions of bushido – the way of the warrior. Budo is a time-honored form of physical culture comprising of judo, kendo, kyudo, sumo, karatedo, aikido, shorinji kempo, naginata and jukendo. Practioners study the skills while striving to unify mind, technique and body; develop his or her character, enhance their sense of morality; and to cultivate a respectful and courteous demeanor.  Practiced steadfastly, these admirable traits become intrinsic to the practitioner. The budo arts serve as a path to self-perfection. This elevation of the human spirit will contribute to social prosperity and harmony, and ultimately, benefit the people of the world."   

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Floating and Dropping

We have been practicing ukimi and chinshin of late. Ukimi means “floating” and chinshin means “dropping.”   The latter is easier to grasp, as it utilizes gravity and the hips to take you effortlessly and quickly into a strong low-stance. Ukimi is the opposite – rising into a high-stance, but instead of pushing up from the legs, using the center of the body, specifically the tanden, as a kind of ballast, almost like a puppet being pulled up from above by a string.  

In the Gekisai kata (Gekisai #1 and #2), going from the second position into the shikodachi stance of position three is an example of where chinshin is employed. Another would be the first three shikodachi of Saifa.

It is important to keep the body core and tanden tensed, and block as you drop into the low shikodachi stance.  

One should also try to use ukimi and chinshin while using chiishi  as shown on the left – when rising out of and dropping into shikodachi each time.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Ido Kihon

In a recent class we practiced ido kihon. While kotei kihon is defined as repeating the basic techniques in a stationary position,  ido kihon involves executing fundamental stances, striking and blocking while moving forward, backward and turning - in other words, basics in motion.

In the session, we practiced sanchindachi, zenkutsudachi and shikodachi stances, using mid- and upper-level oizuki going forward and mid- and upper-level blocks and gyakuzuki moving backwards.  

Three key points to always keep in mind while practicing ido kihon are:

  1. One's height should not change while stepping forward or backward, and the head should not "bob" up and down.  This requires keeping the stance low and the knees flexible.
  2. Though in sparring and tournaments any kind of stance can and should be used, ido kihon is basic training, so the stances should be rigorously and correctly maintained. No half stances or feet pointing out rather than in, etc.
  3. Especially for beginners, the block or strike should be executed after (or as) the feet have firmly taken the stance - never before.  

Friday, 14 March 2014

Seika Tanden

The tanden is key in Chinese medicine, Qigong, Tai Chi, Martial Arts and Zen Meditation.  It can be literally translated as the “Field of Elixir” and is seen as a source of "life force" or energy.  Similar to chakras in yoga, there are several tanden, the seika tanden, or lowest, being located just below the navel in the abdominal muscles.

It is the center point of the physical body, and plays an essential role in movement and balance. It has also been identified as a part of a network involving the brain and nervous system that regulates our wakefulness cycle, enabling us, therefore, through breathing and tensing, to have some control over the process of consciousness itself.

But how to find this seika tanden and use it in karate?  First, you must be aware of the tanden in the lower abdomen. Push in your finger a few inches below your navel and tense and release the muscle you feel.  Another technique is to tie your belt tightly across the abdomen, so you can feel the pressure of the belt against you as you tense and release the tanden during training.

Next, try to be aware of tanden at all times, when walking and sitting in daily life.  Experiment with tension and release and focus on that point as much as possible every day in your daily activities. You may also find an increase in your ability to control emotions and nervousness, and a general centering of one’s self occurs.

Monday, 10 March 2014


The "gorei" is the count from 1 to 10 shouted out when practicing punches, kicks, ido kihon and kata, etc, especially in group sessions.  In Japan there are several ways to pronounce numbers, but in the dojo "shi" for always used for four and not yon:
Ku (or Kyu)

One function of the gorei in training is to represent the instant of an opponent's attack. Therefore, the student should respond immediately upon hearing it with the required technique. This doesn't mean that the gorei should be called out too quickly, one after the other, which only rushes lower level students.  However, the response to each count should be immediate and unhesitating.  A slow response is not good. But "predicting" and jumping ahead of the count by executing the technique before the gorei is called is also poor form (though sometimes inevitable) and shows a lack of focus. To foster a sense of "battle readiness" in students, the gorei should sometimes be called out at random intervals, forcing students to maintain a state of tension and focus in between each count, instead of getting into a rhythm and therefore just "going through the motions." 

Friday, 7 March 2014


Yoyogi RyuShinKan dojo has several makiwara or "striking posts."  The two on the outside are flat and are used to practice frontal strikes and kicks.  The one in the center is cylindrical and can also be used to practice mawashigeri, furizuki and other techniques that come from the sides.

This link provides a good overview.

The article has some sound general advice:  

"Always check, before and after practice, that your implements are in good condition and clean. Also put everything that you use back in the correct place afterwards. This is an important habit to develop in your dojo with all equipment..."

Equipment should be used respectfully and the dojo should be kept clean and orderly at all times.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

2014 Shibuya Spring Karate Tournament

The 2014 Shibuya Ward Spring Karate Tournament will be held on Tuesday, April 29 (Showa Day), which is a national holiday.  The tournament has kata and kumite sections, as well as age-based senior and junior divisions. As it is open to all the dojos in Shibuya Ward, there are many different styles of karate and kata on display, so it is an excellent chance to learn much about karate. The opening ceremony is at 9:30 and the event proper kicks off at 10:00.  

The Venue is:

Shibuya Sports Center (Main Gym, Sub Gym and Dojo)
The address is 1-40-18 Nishi Hara, Shibuya-ku
The nearest stations are Hatagaya and Yoyogi Uehara.

Anyone wanting to participate should join the dojo!