Monday, November 17, 2008

Oliva Sensei's Kumite Seminar, Carl's report

Carl here...

Last Sunday the Shiramizu dojo hosted an international champion seminar with Antonio Oliva Seba Sensei, 8th dan WKF International coach. The venue for the seminar was the budo dojo in the Asukaru gymnasium in Satte City. This place is the site of the Monday night Shiramizu branch class and Arakawa Sensei often uses the large sport's arena adjacent to the dojo for competitions.

Oliva Sensei was assisted in the morning by Latvia Coach Andris Vasiljevs and his athlete WKF Junior Silver medlaist Kalvis Kalnins, who was too young to compete in the WKF World championships last weekend and so he here in Japan to observe. In the afternoon Adam Kovacs and other athletes and coaches of the Hungarian National Team helped out as well.

Oliva Sensei himself has got a significant CV, which has already been mentioned in this blog, so I won't repeat it here. Translation from English to Japanese was provided by Haneda Sensei (Kashiwa High School Karate Club Head Coach) and Richard Sensei.

Latvia Coach Andris Vasiljevs working out with a Shiramizu student.

The day was split into two different courses; the morning session was for kids and ran from 09:30 to 12:45. This session covered defensive kumite techniques. The afternoon session was for cadets and seniors, it ran from 14:30 until 17:30, and it served as an introduction to kumite tactics.

Each session started off with a group photo (so that everyone could get a copy at the end after someone ran of to the local photo shop to make several dozens!) and then a long warm up designed to get the body and mind and heart working – a theme of the second session! Oliva Sensei was quick to say that he doesn't have all the answers, and that there were many different ideas and training methods to achieve the same results. Also, his was is not the 'European Way of Kumite' as there are many different coaches with different ideas, but that his is a scientific system unique to his observations and experiences from around the world.

What follows is a few of his theories and ideas:

Kumite Defensive System
I was surprised to see Oliva Sensei using a white board to teach to kids, but the system seemed to work well. He drew a number of simple pictures of the board, which at first meant nothing to the spectators. However, after he spent a little time explaining the process, it all made sense and was very easy to follow.

Sensei explained when to use a single technique, double techniques and multiple techniques in defence. He also explained that attacking and defending in kumite are completely different animals, from the way you move, the techniques you use, even the way you think! For example, to attack a person uses linear movements but to defend, a person uses circular movements.

Let's play a game
Then he set everyone away working on various ‘games’ that got the body and mind moving. Some of the games were as simple as playing tag in pairs (trying to tag the opponent's shoulder or knee, known as 'karate tag' in Shiramizu). In this game you learn to move the body in circular and linear movements and flex and reach – just as you do in a real bout. Sensei also had the students organised into groups of 4, each person would take a turn defending against all three of the other teammates whilst being backup up to a wall. This simulates being in the corner / edge of the mat in a bout, so you learn circular movements.

Attack or defend?
Oliva sensei explained that there is a fine line between defending and attacking, and that once you have successfully defended against an attack, you should immediately become the aggressor.

The last exercise that we did was another simulated combat drill, this time in pairs with the ‘defender’ initiating the exercise by attacking and then counter punching.

At every stage of the seminar, Oliva Sensei effectively used the white board and Adam and Kalvis to demonstrate each particular point. This system worked very well throughout both seminars.

The morning session finished with a summary from Oliva Sensei, again using the white board and a question and answer session from the kids. There was a variety of techniques from ‘what technique is more effective, a body or head mawashigeri?’ to ‘what Japanese food do you like?’. Sensei gave a short closing speech and to finish, all the students lined up and shook the hands of all the coaches and were presented with a copy of the group photo that was taken in the morning backed onto card explaining who the coaches were.

Kumite tactics
There was a one hour lunch break before the second session started. This session covered kumite tactics. As with the morning session, we started off with a group photo with the usual poses and a few introductory speeches from Arakawa Sensei, Oliva Sensei and Norma Foster Sensei (Canada Wadokai and a WKF referee).

Oliva Sensei defined tactics as ‘the ability to use your intelligence in a match’. He therefore started with a lecture on what makes a successful fighter, a balance of techniques/conditioning; mind and heart. Sensei explained what a fighter needed to understand in order to be successful. Some of those things are:

Rules – the competition rules must be known and understood
o Also, different competitions / regions / countries have a different emphasis and interpretation of the rules. A fighter must therefore know what the referees are looking for.

Points – throughout a bout, a fighter must know how many points both fighters have and what to do / how to act if he gains points or loses points.

Coach - a fighter must listen to their coach, they have a better perspective during the fight and more experience to guide the fighter. A coach will also advise the fighter as to what type of fighter their opponent is.

Time - A fighter must know how long the bout is, and how to act during each stage of the fight. Oliva sensei broke down a bout into quarters when explaining this.

Rhythm/Tempo - of the fight, a fighter should control the tempo of the bout so they can rest and fight at the appropriate time. Also, a fighter should attack when the opponent is trying to rest.

Distance - an understanding of distance is important in attacking and defending, misjudging this can lead to contact violations, stepping out of the area or losing points.

Control / Contact - sensei explained that most of the time a fighter needs excellent control, however, there are occasions when a fighter needs to make contact.

Opponent - Is the opponent well known? Is (s)he tall / short / fast / slow etc... What techniques do they favour etc...

Attack/Defend - a fighter must have a good balance of attacking and defending to win. Also, if a fighter prefers counterpunching then they need to make the opponent attack.

Ring craft - this is how you use the Tatami, where and how you fight. If for example you prefer fighting in the corner, then that where you need to take your opponent.

Referees/Officials - all referees and officials are different; they have all had different experiences in karate and so look for different things in fights.
o Also, at a competition, every tatami may be run slightly different depending upon the officials. One area may allow contact or give points easily whilst another won’t
o Fighters need to be aware of what round they are fighting in. Usually the inexperience referee’s and officials judge the early round. As the rounds increase in importance, so do the officials. Until the event final where you have the ‘popes’ of the referees judging aka the best officials at the event. A fighter must act accordingly in each round.
o Also, ‘some’ referee’s automatically favour the top fighters of their country, so if you’re drawn against one of them, you should expect some bias in the judging. It’s therefore more important not to make any mistakes. (Or the referees will know who is stronger and some tend to be waiting to give that stronger fighter points since they're waiting for them to score.)

Self - a fighter must know themselves, how they like to fight, what techniques they like to use, fighting style etc... A fighter must also have a ‘game plan’ during a match and aim to fight within the plan at all times.

After this lecture, everyone was cold and stiff so we were all treated to a very thorough and exhausting warm up led by Latvia Coach Andris Vasiljevs. He had some really good warm up techniques and drills, a lot of these have already been incorporated into the Shiramizu classes. After this warm up, we had a short break and then another shorter lecture on specific tactics.

Sensei explained that it was best to use a single technique against a multiple attack. A double attack would be best used against a stationary opponent, and a multiple attack is best used against an opponent who is rapidly moving away. Sensei concentrated on what to do against a superior fighter.

Fighting a superior opponent
The underdog should concentrate on defence, making sure they don’t make any mistakes. The underdog will face bias from the officials because they automatically, even subconsciously, favour the ‘superior’ fighter. However, by working on defence 100% the opponent will get tired and start to make mistakes, when they do you attack and win the point. Also, Sensei emphasised that the defender has many escape routes from a linear attack by moving off the linear line and many opportunities to counter attack, but he stressed that you cannot make mistakes.

After a demonstration by Adam and Kalvis sparring, we all divided into pairs and practised this point. We took turns acting as the underdog, concentrating on defence. Every few minutes we changed partners, after 6 or 7 partner changes sensei stopped us for the next point.

Fighting an inferior opponent
If you are the superior fighter, then the referee’s and officials want you to win. So it’s important that you win the bout very quickly and don’t make any mistakes. If you take too long, the opponent will settle their nerves and gain confidence. Sensei insisted that you should aim to get as many points as possible in a very short space of time before the opponent gets comfortable. He used Adam and Kalvis to simulate this point, Adam took the role of the superior fighter and Kalvis the inferior one. Then Adam gained 8 points in quick succession against Kalvis with 8 techniques. Oliva sensei reinforced the demonstration by explaining that a technique that does not score is a waste of energy, every technique that you score must have a purpose.

Again we divided into pairs and took turns to act like the superior fighter only throwing techniques which were good enough to score.

Fighting an equal opponent
In a fight between equal fighters, the referee’s have less bias. However, Oliva sensei stated that they could still be influenced because the referee tends to favour the first person to score or the person who dominates the centre of area because they look stronger and more in control. Again after a short demonstration we divided into pairs and practised.

After a while it was time to call it a day, we lined up for the closing speeches and again we were all presented with a group photo.

The seminar was really well attended, over 100 people trained including the Hungarian team. It was truly an international seminar with people from England; Canada; Japan; Germany; Holland; Latvia; Spain and Hungary. This was great because you could fight people of all shapes, sizes and fighting styles. This is particularly important when learning how to fight, the greater variety in opponents, the better your fighting will become.

I think the morning session was more successful and more fun being tailored primarily for kids. The drills were really simple but effective and can easily be used in the dojo. I think the second seminar was a little too intensive so it felt rushed; also at times things had to be translated three times before the masses were told. At times like this there’s always a risk that things get lost in translation. Despite this, the content of the seminar was great and as an active fighter I found it to be a great refresher course. I will keep my eyes open for the next Oliva Sensei seminar.

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