Friday, 27 June 2014


Some years ago, a Zen priest would visit the Gojuryu Karatedo Yoyogi Ryushinkan Dojo every month and instruct the students in the practice of Zen meditation. Although this is no longer a part of the regular curriculum at the Dojo, it is still important for students to work on the mental aspects of training, including the discipline of Zen "sitting."  The practice of zazen shares many aspects with Gojuryu training, such as a focus on tensing the abdominal muscles, and deep breathing techniques.  In fact, Sanchin kata has been described as a sort of "moving meditation."  

A practical and relatively clear manual on Zen training in English is "Zen Training - Methods and Philosophy" by Katsuki Sekida.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Morote Chudan Kamae

The morote chudan kamae in sanchindachi is one of the most common starting positions found in Gojuryu kata and kihon training. It forms the basis for the Sanchin and Tensho kata and is also found, especially at the beginning, in the Sanseru, Shisochin, Seisan and Suparinpei kata. The term loosely translates as "both hands mid-level readiness." 

The key points to observe are (1) the elbows are tucked inside the body line while the hands are extended slightly outwards at approximately shoulder width; (2) the distance between each elbow and the chest is the width of a fist; (3) the fists should be at shoulder height; (4) the wrists are straight; and (5) the elbows are turned inwards slightly by turning the little fingers towards the body. 

The stance is sanchindachi as detailed elsewhere in this blog. Posture, especially the back, should be straight, with the top of the head in line with the spine. The chest should be neither convex or concave, and the abdominal and lower back muscles should be tensed. There should, however, be no tension in the shoulders. The feet grip the floor and the legs are turned inwards with the knees pointing towards the center line of an imaginary opponent.

This "turning inwards" of the elbows, forearms and upper legs, along with the tensing of the tanden and lower back muscles, is known as "shiboru."

Friday, 20 June 2014

Why Martial Arts is Good for Kids

Here is an article on why practicing martial arts can be good for children, especially in a secure environment such as the Gojuryu Karatedo Yoyogi Ryushinkan Dojo.  Reasons include becoming more active, developing focus, stillness and resilience, gaining self-confidence and self-respect, learning to connect their minds and bodies, and learning how to breathe properly.  Additionally, they might learn something about conflict resolution. As the article says, "The bottom line is that almost any child can and will benefit from participation in the martial arts." Classes for kids at the Gojuryu Karatedo Yoyogi Ryushinkan Dojo are held twice a week on Wednesday evening and Saturday afternoon.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Chiishi Training for Feet

Here is a simple but effective training exercise using chiishi to increase the gripping ability of the toes. This will both strengthen sanchin dachi and increase leg muscles for kicks. Grip the chiishi handle between the big and second toe and then raise the leg as if to execute a maegeri front kick. It is best to use chiishi with thinner handles for this exercise. And as with practicing kicks, always raise the knee belt-high or above.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Mushin (無心)

Mushin is the essence of Zen and a key component of Japanese martial arts. The term is shortened from Mushin no shin (無心の心), a Zen expression meaning “mind without mind,” also referred to as a state of “no-mindedness.” That is, a mind not fixed or occupied by any thought or emotion.  Zen master Takuan Soho spoke of it as a mind that does not "stop" or fixate anywhere, and is without distraction.  

"The mind must always be in the state of 'flowing,' for when it stops anywhere that means the flow is interrupted and it is this interruption that is injurious to the well-being of the mind. In the case of the swordsman, it means death. When the swordsman stands against his opponent, he is not to think of the opponent, nor of himself, nor of his enemy's sword movements. He just stands there with his sword which, forgetful of all technique, is ready only to follow the dictates of the subconscious. The man has effaced himself as the wielder of the sword. When he strikes, it is not the man but the sword in the hand of the man's subconscious that strikes."

In the Heiho Kadensho (兵法家伝書), Yagyū Munenori's treatise on swordsmanship and strategy written in 1632, it is stated that any obsession with winning is an illness of the mind and makes the warrior unable to think rationally. Yagyu Munenori advocated that a warrior have nothing in his heart and be as translucent as a mirror.  This is Mushin, or the state of “no-mindedness,” and maintaining Mushin was the main theme of his Shinkageryu psychological teachings.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Sandan Gi Drills

Sandan Gi – literally “technique in three steps or levels” - is a basic drill usually performed in pairs, where one partner moves forward executing punches, while the other moves backwards blocking those punches.  The three steps both forward and backward are sanchin dachi, sanchin dachi and shiko dachi, and the strikes and blocks are jo, chu, ge (upper, middle and lower) respectively.  The shiko dachi stance is angled.

Sandan Gi is a distillation of many bunkai or applications in the kata, most clearly the opening steps to Gekisai Daiichi and Gekisai Daini.  Many variations can be made, for example, retreating after the third strike to a mirrored shikodachi, as in Seiunchin.  Additionally, neko-ashi dachi stances, kouke and other blocks, and front and side kicks can be used.  More information on variations can be found here.

Key Points:
  • Feet should be firmly planted on the ground before striking – in other words, if the feet are slow, everything will be slow.
  • The strike should be directed accurately. Do not aim to the side or above the head, etc., as this is a form of yakusoku kumite.
  • The attacking side initiates – when blocking, respond to the attacker’s motion and do not move first.
  • A kiai shout should be made at the third strike/block in shiko dachi.
  • Contact (by the blocker especially) should be maintained at all times - this is muchimi. 

The following comment is from here: "Moving and stationary drills develop a keen sense of timing and distancing, as well as the ability to blend and redirect, using softness to overcome strength."