Sunday, August 31, 2008

Former intern versus the world!

Team Canada (l to r: Richard, me, Peter) on the podium.

It's Lawrence again and though I'm not technically the intern anymore, I keep forgetting that fact. But sometimes that comes in handy, especially at the Wadokai World Championship where, aside from just being a competitor, I tried my best to return the favour to Shiramizu by helping out as much as possible.

Richard Sensei's already described the event so while I was running around a lot (the tournament week was really hectic, balancing competing seriously with seeing my friends not-seriously), I did make it out there for 4 days in a row to take in the whole event.

From a purely competitive point of view, I thought that it was great to be able to see what the rest of the world's karate was like. Having spent a year in Japan surrounded by seemingly endless numbers of champions, it's easy to forget that all over the world there are people of various levels training just as hard. Unfortunately, as Richard said, lots of matters both preventable and unpreventable kept a lot of countries from competing but, despite that, there were still some strong competitors determined to do their best.

In keeping with the competitiveness, the men's adult individual kata division was all I could think about in the days leading up to event. With the draws not being shown until the morning of, I couldn't really plan which katas I would do in which rounds. Beyond that, it seemed there was some confusion with the division ladder as well. But even so, I was extremely happy to make it to the finals for the day after!

The finals were especially great because all the action was focussed on one ring and was mixed with some very good demos by various groups. It was a great showcase for martial arts and some of my friends who went, who knew little about the sport, enjoyed having a chance to see for themselves what the intricacies of the sport are.

My final round against Furuhashi Sensei (as Richard said, 6-time Wadokai National Kata Champion) went exactly as I thought it would, but I was more than happy to walk out with a silver medal. It's always a nice feeling to finally see the fruits of your labour and this time around, because it was in Vancouver, it gave me a chance to really offer a good first impression to lots of people in the Canadian karate world. I was never that involved with that group much before, but I will be when I'm back in Vancouver, so this was a great chance to open doors and just to build relationships with people I will be working with in the near future.

The team kata event was even more fun! I had seen the girls practicing everyday leading up to the tournament so I knew what was in store, but instead of being down about the loss, I was happy for the girls for their win. What I didn't really understand was why there were no other teams. Lots of countries had shown up with lots of adults and team kata isn't some kind of impossible event. With some earnest training to get the timing in order and working out a bunkai (which is great fun in itself) and a team can be semi-competitive. And a lot of dojos had the benefit of their members being together whereas Team Canada was separated by the Pacific... but then again, we did get a gold medal for the effort we put into training and it's always nice to be recognized not just for the result but for the process.

But really, I can't thank Norma Sensei, the other organizers and the volunteers enough for helping put together the tournament. Something of this scale isn't easy to pull off and, like any major event, there were issues that had come up. But most of the people I talked to left with a good impression and I'm sure many of them got a lot out of it, as did I.

Also a lot of fun was the day out that I planned for Shiramizu the Sunday after the tournament. Though everyone was a bit tired from 3 straight days of watching or competing in the tournament, we still managed to visit the Vancouver Science World, Gastown, and Stanley Park. There was also time, of course, for shopping on Robson Street and dinner before they returned to their hotel.

How many people did it take to remove that blue collar from the dog? Let's just say it was harder than it looked...

And in the end, there were lots of smiling faces. Faces that I hope to see at the next tournament.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Internship Reunion Party!

Richard here!

l-r Mark, Richard, Arakawa Sensei, Kei (back), Lawrence, Natsumi & Paul

During the Wadokai World Championships week in Vancouver, Canada, the three people to have completed the internship - Mark Taylor Intern-1, Paul Atkin Intern-2 and Lawrence Liang Intern 3 - got together with myself, Arakawa Sensei, Kei Suzuki and Natsumi Tanaka on Thursday, August 21 for an internship reunion party at the North Vancouver Cactus Club on Pemberton.

Kei is actually an original Shiramizu adult class English student from when I started the internship even before Mark arrived in early 2005! And Natsumi is Paul's girlfriend whom he met while he was an intern, and she followed him back to Kelowna! Kei came to Canada on this trip to go visit Paul and Natsumi in Kelowna, and then come to the Wadokai Worlds to see her two sons compete in the Junior events.

l-r Mark, Paul and Lawrence

During the dinner, Arakawa Sensei and I were able to surprise the 3 post-interns with completion certificates, created in both Japanese and English!

Mark's certificate!

Paul's certificate!

Lawrence's certificate!

For some updates on what the guys are up to now, Mark returned to Canada in August 2006 to take over the Simon Fraser University Karate Club (SFU) while entering a carpentry apprenticeship program, Paul returned to Canada in July 2007 to help his father's Shotokan Karate Club in Kelowna and Lawrence stayed on in Japan in July 2008 to help me with the International Department at Seiritsu High School in Tokyo.

Actually, since Lawrence now works for me at Seiritsu, his desk is beside mine in the staff room, so I had to work on these certificates in secret every time he wasn't squatted beside me slaving away, from work I had given him of course!

Once I was done, I sent them to Arakawa Sensei for layout design with logos and printing on to proper Wadokai certificate paper.

Seriously, our internship is the only structured program I know of in Japan for karate, so we are very lucky to have it! Each of the interns spoke glowingly about having completed the full year at Shiramizu and each said he wants to return again one day.

So future interns, you too might receive an Shiramizu Internship Completion certificate one day! Soon we will begin accepting applications for Intern#5 for next year after our English-English current Intern#4 Carl!

(And yes, we are very interested in accepting applications from women too, we just haven't to date.)


Richard's Wadokai Worlds '08 Report!

l-r Japan Women's Kata Team: Yuki, Kana, Rie
l-r Canada Men's Kata Team:Richard, Lawrence, Peter

Richard here!

The details:
Thu Aug 21 Juniors (open to any style)
Fri Aug 22 Wadokai Worlds adult kata and kumite eliminations
Sat Aug 23 Wadokai Worlds adult kata and kumite finals-only, plus demos

Location: Hollyburn Country Club, West Vancouver, Canada
Arena: Hollyburn Tennis Centre (4 karate rings, finals 1 ring)

The good news is we did bring back some hardware!
Men's Team Kata - gold (myself, Lawrence and Peter)
Men's Individual Kata - silver for Lawrence and bronze for me
Men's Over 35 Kata - 4th place for myself

l-r Men's Open Kata: Richard (bronze), Takuya Furuhashi (gold) & Lawrence (silver)

The Japan Women's Kata (actually high school girls) team all smiles!

These girls had worked so hard for so long getting their team kata ready, you could tell this really meant so much to them, like the end of the journey with a positive result!

l-r Johnny Tesoro, Richard, Kevin Floyd, all former Kenzen Vancouver instructors

At least I got something. And the blue belt I was wearing had 'Vancouver Karate Cup' written on it, which I found in a tournament box that looked really familiar. Well, the Van Cup used to be my event, so really, I was wearing a belt I bought 8 years ago for my old tournament!

Enjoying the very nice patio at Hollyburn!

l-r back row Steven Muskwa Johnson, Kevin Floyd, Lawrence Liang
l-r front row Richard, Mark Taylor (1st intern!), Johnny Tesoro

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Wadokai World Championships 2008 Full Results!

Location: Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Host: Canada Wadokai (CZWKA)
Junior's Events - Eliminations and Finals - Thursday, August 21
Senior's Eliminations - Friday, August 22
Senior's Finals - Saturday, August 23

Read this document on Scribd: 2008 World Wado Kai Championship Final Results

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The 44th Wadokai All Japan Karatedo Championships

Carl here;

This tournament was split over two days, with the eliminations held on the 23rd August in a large sports hall near Tokyo Disney world in Chiba and the event finals at the Nippon Budokan on the 24th.

Friday night
For me, the weekend started on the Friday night at the Shiramizu Dojo. I arrived towards the end of the training session (I usually train but the session was earlier than usual due to the tournament) and just in time to be handed a paper cup and a pen. I was asked to write down my thoughts about tomorrow’s tournament.

If you’re wondering, I wrote “I will get laughed at in Kata, and smoked (Ed-beaten) in kumite”. I realise that this isn’t particularly optimistic but at the time I felt as though I was climbing a mountain, I hadn’t competed since February, this would be my first competition in Japan AND it’s the middle of Japan’s summertime! I had already resigned myself to giving it my best shot and learning for the next tournament.

Then along with all the other competitors, I lined up to get my cup filled with one of the various drinks available. Once everyone had filled their cup, they lined up ready for the toast. Yamazaki and Yoshihara Sensei said a few things and there were various shouts of Kampai enthusiastically led by Tsubasa-san. Everyone downed their drink and then got into a big circle; Tsubasa then led a count to 3. On the count of 1 and 2 everyone in the huddle stamped their foot and shouted, then on the count of 3, everyone jumped and shouted together. This was a very simple but effective team build, and it put everyone into a positive mindset for tomorrow’s contest. I think I will be taking this particular tradition back to England with me.

Day 1
The next morning, we met at the dojo at 6.20am and we were all on our way by 6.30am. The coach journey was pretty uneventful and we got to Tokyo Disney world by 8.10am. We unloaded the coach and we waited, along with a few hundred other people at the entrance for the doors to be opened.

The doors were opened at 8.35 and 200 people tried to get through inside at once. I was very near the entrance, so I got swept inside by the masses. It turns out that everyone was in a rush to secure blocks of seats for their respective dojo. The first in were the scouts who would rush to a good area and hold the seats for the rest. Some of the Shiramizu cadets were given this mission.
Amy and I went off to get changed and then quickly joined the rest of Shiramizu, who had grouped together in the middle of the arena. Tsubasa put everyone through a warm up of basics and then we had a short time before the opening ceremony. I am pleased to say that this ceremony didn’t last very long.

Immediately after the ceremony, they announced the categories which would be starting. My kumite event would be starting at 10am in areas one and two. I must say that the organisation here is the best I’ve ever seen. Everyone has a printed program which is the size of a small telephone directory. It states your name and dojo, who you will fight, in what order and on which area. At the back of the program, there is an explanation of the referee flag and hand signals. And finally, it has a list of who has placed in the JKF Wadokai Worlds and the JKF Wadokai Nationals in previous years and a list of all the overseas JKF Wadokai branch dojo.

Kumite - Round 1
There were 76 entries in my category and I was in the ninth bout. I watched the first few bouts with interest, but I found I was quite relaxed but still nervous when it became my turn to fight. I was pleased that one of the officials was a friendly face; Shiramizu's Uehara Sensei who is a JKF Referee was on my area.

I was designated ao (blue), my opponent aka (red) and we would fight for 1 ½ minutes, and we would fight to 6 points clear (usually its 8 points). Aka moved forward immediately with a jodan tobikomizuki (lunge punch to the head) and got awarded ippon (1 point). This wasn’t a good start.

I countered with a jodan mawashigeri (round-house kick to the head) which knocked aka to the floor. Two out of three officials deemed it to be too excessive so I was given a warning. Undaunted, I came back with a jodan ura-mawashigeri (hook-kick to the head) and got sanbon (3 points).
We continued to trade for a while and I scored another 3 points, all with jodan tobikomizuki. The score was sitting at 6 (au) – 1 (aka), so I only needed one more point to win. I managed to score another jodan ura-mawashigeri and won the bout 8-1 with 30 seconds left to go.

Kumite - Round 2
I was more nervous for this one, though I was aware of my strengths and weaknesses from my last fight. I had decided to get my hands working and score with gyakuzuki (reverse punch), a technique particularly favoured by the Japanese fighters.

I tried to score 3 times with reverse punch but my opponent was faster off the mark on all 3 occasions. The score was sitting at 3 (au) – 0 (aka), I was losing and I had to catch up. I upped my game a little, and started attacking more.

I threw a jodan-geri (head kick) which didn’t score but in the scuffle my opponent lost a contact lens. The match was stopped whilst he replaced it. When the match resumed, I threw a jodan ura-mawashigeri to equalise the score. The rest of the match was very close, I scored ippon and then my opponent immediately equalised. I scored another ippon which put me ahead by one point. We traded for a few more seconds; ao through a gyakuzuki which I thought had landed just as the referee called yame (stop). The punch didn’t score and I won my second match 5-4.

Kumite - Round 3
I was fully aware that if I won this fight, I would be competing in the Budokan tomorrow. I tried to put that out of my mind as the fight started.

My opponent was very quick; he launched a chudan mawashigeri (round-house kick to the body). I blocked this with my arm, but it was awarded nihon (two points). Perhaps by block wasn’t obvious enough. We squared up and traded a few techniques then he threw another body kick but this time I was ready, I moved back out of range and the kick skimmed past, just missing its target. The referee stopped the fight and awarded another nihon. I felt victimised at this; the score was 4-0. I next launched a jodan mawashigeri which found its target but didn’t score; my opponent grabbed me and tried a throw which I stopped with a heavy punch to the face. The referee’s didn’t like that so they gave a contact warning.

When the fight resumed, my opponent threw a perfect mawashigeri which landed around the back. This was awarded nihon and the fight was over, I had lost round three 6 – 0. I was crushed, I felt like I almost had victory in my grasp but it was taken away from me.

I stepped away from the area to re-focus and get my head straight (very important after losing a fight). I analysed my fights and understood that my third opponent had watched me fight in the first two rounds, and he knew that I favoured head kicks. He countered this by throwing body kicks which are faster because they have a shorter distance to cover. This strategy closed me out of the fight with just three techniques. I figured that I need to work more on gyakuzuki’s, through all my bouts I was telling my body to throw them but it was unwilling to co-operate. There is a definite lack of conditioning that I will have to address before the next tournament. Overall, I was pleased with my performance and the fact that I finished in the top 16 out of 76 fighters.

I sat back down to watch the last fight. Uehara Sensei no doubt sensing my disappointment, said ‘maybe, he is a very good fighter, very fast’. It cheered my up a little, though I knew how I lost the fight. After the next bout, the area finished and we all bowed out. The top 8 fighters would finish the category in the Nippon Budokan tomorrow.

Mori in action

I was pleased to find out that Mori-san (from Shiramizu) had got through to the top 8 as he had been fighting on area 1 so I had missed most of his fights.

Chihiro in action

After my area finished, I caught the end of Chihiro’s category. She comfortably secured her place in the Budokan with two clean wins.

All areas stopped for 1 hour lunch at 12.30 and resumed again at 1.30pm. My next event wasn’t until 4pm, so I decided to have a sleep. This is something of a tradition for me at tournaments; I find it’s the best way to keep you fresh.

I was sat in the stands at about 3.30pm, looking at the program a little puzzled. My kata event was after the children’s events but I hadn’t seen any kata yet. At this point Yoshihara sensei finds me and explains that my kata category is next; I must have looked puzzled because sensei explained that kata was taking place in another hall on the second floor. I had been completely unaware of this and missed all kata events. Sensei led the way into the other hall, which had 4 kata areas set up. I was going to be up after the kids’ category on area 13.

Kata - Round 1
I was nervous, very nervous. It must have shown too because Yoshihara Sensei kept telling me to relax. This was the first time I had competed in kata since I was 12 years old and I had never competed in anything bigger than a club event! There were 44 people in my kata event, including Lawrence who had mistakenly been entered despite competing at the JKF Wadokai worlds in Canada. I was to perform second. I tried to get myself psyched up for it, practising a little. But I found I was particularly out of my depth with this. When I was called up I walked to the line, I didn’t even realise that no-one had lined up at the red position. I was called forward and given a bye.

Kata - Round 2
This made me even more nervous, I would surely have stood a better chance against the guys in the first round! The second round came, this time I was aka (red). I lined up and walked on, I announced my kata as Niseishi, this being the compulsory kata. I then gave the worst Kata performance of my life, everything was tense, the targets were off, it was just awful. The result obviously went to ao (blue) 5 flags to 0. The important thing is that I walked off smiling; knowing full well that I had given it my best shot, and was still awful!

It’s fair to say that I have a new found respect for kata competitors. I am relatively at ease from the moment I step on the mat as a fighter, but kata is different. I didn’t really have time to think about the performance because after the bow out I had to run back downstairs to watch Amy fighting. I picked up the camera en-route and just got to the side of the area as the referee signalled the end of the bout, I had missed all of Amy’s fights. Amy won her first fight 6-0 with solid reverse punches but lost her second 7-1.

Amy, Chihiro, Yoshihara Sensei and Kikuchi Sensei

Amy was the last Shiramizu competitor of the day so after her event, we all got changed and met outside for a group photo, then it was back home on the coach.


Day 2
Today was another early start; we met at Tobudobutsu-koen station for a 6.53am departure. We arrived at the Nippon Budokan at approximately 8.30am just as the doors were opened.

As with yesterday, there was a huge crowd waiting for the front doors of the sports centre to be opened. Shiramizu didn’t have to race inside though as we had officials who had already secured us the best seats in the house, they taped off a full section of the Budokan seating just for us.

The competitors who qualified for today’s events quickly got changed and started warming up in the middle of the Budokan. I think it’s great that some of the students who didn’t qualify still came to support their team mates.

The tournament started at 9.30am, as always with all areas bowing and starting together.

Chihiro, ready to go into battle

Men’s Individual Kumite
Mori-san was one of 8 competitors to get through the eliminations of the event. His fight was second. I watched all fights in this category with interest, the competitors were fast off the mark but they were all very cagey. No-one wanted to risk making a mistake when they were this close to the finals, so the majority of each bout was two guys stood still until the last 20 seconds when they would both try for a point and the fastest would win. Mori was fighting pretty well until he took a heavy blow which temporarily KO’d him. His opponent was disqualified putting Mori through but he was still unsettled for the next round where he never really engaged the fight. Mori finished in 3rd place.

Men's Final - exciting stuff?!

The final was not particularly inspiring, the two competitors bounced three minutes away and the fight went to extra time. In the whole fight, only three techniques were thrown including the one technique that scored.

Opening Ceremony
At 12.30, the tournament was put on hold and all but one area was cleared of tables and chairs. The area that was remaining hosted the senior kata finals. After this every competitor lined up in their respective dojo, this took a while because there were so many students.

At a rough count, I would say 500 students took part in a collective bow. Many important people (?) made speeches, most people wished the competitors luck and some mentioned the Wadokai World Cup and the Tokyo 2016 Olympic bid but apart from that, I have no idea what was said.

After the speaches all the students were put through a kneeling bow followed by Pinan Nidan, Pinan Shodan and a few kicking and punching techniques. On every count, there was a pounding of a huge drum, it made the whole exhibit that bit more impressive.

After this, a number of students presented large trophies to the officials and were given smaller ones in turn. I’m going to guess and say that these were team trophies which are returned annually.

Next came a small kata demonstration, 15 students came up in teams of 3 and performed a number of team kata. This was ok, but nothing special I think I may have been spoilt by watching so many Shiramizu demonstrations at the dojo.

Kata Events
A lot of the Shiramizu competitors were called up for their respective events shortly after the opening ceremony.

I watched most Shiramizu performances and I thought the standard was exceptional, quite often when I thought our students had performed well, the result would go to the other person.

Yamazaki Sensei showing us how it's done

I think that Japanese referee's must look for different things in kata than British referee's.

Or it could simply be that I am more conditioned (being from the UK) to the likes of the shotokan style with its strong stances than the wadokai style.

I'm not sure, but it's obvious that I've still got a lot to learn about kata.


A bit about the tournament structure

The closing date for all entries was a month beforehand. This meant that professional programs could be printed, with every competitor's name inside. These programs help ensure that the tournament runs like clockwork.

There were 2252 competitor entries in the day’s tournament, with 36 categories, the biggest event had a massive 196 entries; obviously a lot of people were entering both kata and kumite, and then team events. But this gives you an idea of the size of the event.

Each kumite area had 13 officials (1 referee/3 flag officials/1 adjudicator/8 table officials), and there were 8 areas. Each kata area had approximately 10 officials (5 flag officials/5 table officials), and there were 7 areas. That’s 174 officials, at a rough count because other officials were walking around all day too! I’ve never been to a tournament were there were so many officials, even at international events. But I believe this; along with the program is the main reasons why the event ran so well.


I think this tournament has opened my eyes to how organised and professional you can be with a little bit of planning and lots of volunteers. I was a little bit disapointed with some of the kumite I watched, but there were still some very good fighters around across all ages. The kata standard was exceptional, I don`t think I witnessed a poor performance all weekend (except maybe mine! :-) ). I'm planning on staying a little longer in Japan next year and competing in the 45th Wadokai All Japan Karatedo Championships, I`m sure it will be bigger and better than ever.


Wednesday, August 20, 2008


I’m writing this post on the same day that the Shiramizu dojo is heading to Canada for the JKF Wadokai World Karate Championships - over 20 kids are competing in the junior open tournament on Aug 21, and a few older ones are on the official Wadokai Japan Team competing in the adult Wadokai Worlds Aug 22 & 23.

If this wasn’t enough to be keeping busy with, the dojo has also had a number of students try for a Dan grade in the past few days too! I think therefore, that it’s a good time to reflect on the past few weeks where ‘competition fever’ has been gripping the dojo.

It’s been a very busy time at the dojo. Everyone has been in overdrive to make sure everything is as it should be, from the travelling details to the students kata and kumite standard. To add to the pressure on the Shiramizu students’ shoulders, a small number of them will be performing a demonstration at the World Championships. This is a great honour for the dojo, and something that Arakawa Sensei and his demo team have taken very seriously. Almost every day that I’ve visited the dojo over the past few weeks, the demo team has been busy practising.

I would also like to mention the Shiramizu ladies kata team (being the official Japan Women's Kata Team) dedication and expertise has inspired me, a devout kumite-only competitor, to appreciate kata competition. I have particularly enjoyed watching the bunkai, or application of the kata which under the WKF kata rules is necessary for team kata finalists. Their bunkai performance is technically very good, and with just the right amount of theatrics thrown in, even a non-Karate-ka will be able to appreciate the performance.

Photo taken from the blog of Arakawa Sensei

I think it’s fantastic that one dojo, albeit a very successful one, can enter a large squad into both the JKF Wadokai World Championships in Canada AND the JKF Wadokai Japan National Championships over the same weekend. It is a testament to the hard work that everyone here puts into their training and teaching. I simply feel privileged to have been a small part of the build up to both tournaments; you simply can’t help but be inspired by so many talented and self motivated athletes training every day.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008


All photo's in this article have been taken from

On Monday, Amy and I decided to head into Tokyo for some sightseeing. Here's how it went, with a little history thrown in for good measure!

In 1868 Emperor Meiji moved his capital from Kyoto to Edo, renaming in Tokyo (the Eastern Capital), Shinjuku became the railhead linking the city to Japan’s western provinces. Travellers would rest and refresh themselves for the final leg of their journey to the imperial palace. The popularity and importance of Shinjuku has not waned, and today 3 million commuters pass through Shinjuku Eki every day, making it the busiest station in Japan.

By day, Shinjuku Eki is a huge concentration of retail stores, malls and discounters of every description. By night, the area is an equally impressive collection of bars, parlours and restaurants – just about anything that amuses, arouses or intoxicates can be bought here, if you know where to look.

The main reason for me wanting to come to Shinjuku is the Skyscraper district. I know it's a little bit sad, but they are an impressive sign of what can be accomplished when you put your mind to it. The area also adds some definition to an otherwise un-defined Tokyo skyline.

Tokyo Tocho – Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office
Built by architect Kenzo Tange, this huge city hall complex was started in 1988 and was completed in 1991 at a staggering cost of 157 billion yen! That is roughly £780 million, that’s the same as some developed countries GDP.

The main building has 48 stories, and it splits on the 33rd floor into two towers. There are observation decks on the 45th floor of both towers and I’m told that on a clear day, you can see Mount Fuji. Unfortunately, it wasn't a clear day when we visited, BUT, we did take a photo of where Fuji should be!

We headed for the south tower, and had a short wait when we entered the building for the elevators to the observation decks, we also had to get our baggage searched. I must say that I was a little disappointed when we got to the 45th floor. The view was ok, but the visibility wasn't good enough to see any great distances. I think I was naively expecting something similar to the view from the 110 storey New York World Trade Centre which I visited before they were destroyed in 2001.

The floor had windows all the way around the outside to view the city, there was a small cafe in the middle and a tiny gift shop. There was also a small exhibition for Japan's bid for the next Olympics. After a while of looking at the city, and posing for a few pictures, we decided to join the huge queue to get back down to the ground floor.

Next, we decided to go to the Shinjuku Park Tower Building
for lunch. After a very nice curry from an Indian restaurant, we had a short walk back to the station, where we had a look around.

Subnade –the most extensive underground arcade in Tokyo
This place is full of shops and restaurants, all underground... I'm sure this is really impressive, it's certainly an impressive piece of engineering, and it is huge. But by the time we got here, I was tired and hungry, so we got some snacks and headed back home. Maybe next time we're coming through here I'll appreciate it a little more... maybe.


Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Pre-Dan Grade Assessment, Shiramizu

Photo was taken from the blog of Arakawa Sensei...

After the usual training on Saturday, Shiramizu had a Pre-Dan grade assessment for 11 students. 5 students were 1st kyu, and going for 1st dan, the other 6 students were going for 2nd or 3rd dan.

This was good to watch as both Amy and I have the goal of taking our next rank whilst in Japan, this would therefore give us an idea of what to expect.

The standard of each student was assessed by 4 of the Shiramizu Instructors; Arakawa Sensei, Uehara Sensei, Iwasaki Sensei and Kikuchi Sensei.

The 'grade' started with all the students and instructors bowing together. Then the students took the floor in groups of two or three and announced which Kata they would be demonstrating. They had a choice of Chinto, Seishan and Naihanchi.

Most people who stood up chose to perform Chinto. I must say, that out of the three kata, it would also be my first choice. The various dan grades in particular were very sharp in their kata, and all of their performances were excellent.

After everyone had taken their turn at kata, it was time to move onto kumite. Students were lined up opposite each other, and each pair was called up in turn to fight. In my opinion, this was typical dan grade fighting, which always has heavier contact than tournaments due to the extra nerves of taking a grading. The fighting was pretty good, with Yuki Okamura stealing the show in both of his bouts (he had to fight twice because of the odd number).

After the kumite, the students bowed out, which I was surprised at. I was expecting a demonstration of kihon kumite and basics. The instructors went into the office to discuss each student's performance and after a while, they came back out and each gave a short speech on what they thought about the everyone's performance.

All but 2 students were selected to go for their grade, with a few being given small pointers as to what they can improve on. The grade will be taking place soon in Chiba prefecture.

I spoke to Yoshihara Sensei after the grading to find out what else the actual dan grade consisted of. I was informed that students must perform basics, two kihon kumite (1 from no's 1-4 and 1 from 5-8). Students must also perform 1 mandatory kata (Chinto, Seishan or Naihanchi) and one other advanced kata, and lastly do kumite.

I would say that there is less to remember in terms of content than in the UK, for example, their is no tanto dori to demonstrate. However, the standard expected is much higher. Also, from what I've been told, the dan grade courses usually have a lot of people grading. Therefore, you have to be particularly exceptional to stand out.

I look forward to us taking our dan grade test...