On Shotokan

I am going to start a series of articles about the different trainings I had during different times of my life, living in different countries and training with/under different people.
Everything here are my personal observations, that can be right or wrong, and mainly generalizations.
If I need to be corrected, please use the comments or drop me an email.

Today is Shotokan's turn, the brainchild of Funakoshi Sensei.

Shotokan training is kihon centric, and by this I mean that is heavily focused on doing the techniques in a perfect manner. Every millimeter of your body will be checked and adjusted for maximum efficiency.
Entire training sessions will be spent on just a few techniques or kata. Kumite will be practiced but not really often, and bunkai will be, at best, marginally explained (John Burke Sensei being a happy exception).

(With Celedonio García, my Sensei, attending a Shirai Hiroshi Sensei. Best way to spend my birthday!)
Even if the training can be boring and repetitive it has a great effect of providing the karateka with a great body awareness and control. A Shotokan karateka can feel every muscle and joint and put them where they want. This means that once you reach that level you will be able to add any technique (not only from Shotokan) to your repertoire in a matter of seconds.

Why this obsession with technique? Because it is believed that perfect technique will make you deliver the most power.
If you can align all your body weight behind your fist then your punch will be extremely powerful. That is why the intention is to make every technique a fight-ending technique (iken isatsu). 

Kumite is usually done in the point system because techniques are usually delivered to the head and contact is deemed too dangerous, that is why sometimes protections are used.

(Coaching my dojomates in a WKF tournament. See? Too much padding for a non contact event...)
Sweeps and throws are usually allowed during sparring, but they are used by a minority. 
Truth be told, Shotokan kumite is sometimes confused with WKF kumite. Shotokan kumite is hard hitting (was even harder in the original Shotokan Dojo) and does not forgive mistakes. I had my nose and ribs broken a few times, and a bloody nose/mouth is not an uncommon event.

All this training makes also for very fast moving karateka, who can put their fist inside your mouth in a split second from a long distance, making them (us?) also very difficult to catch if they (we?) are retreating.

(With Kanazawa Soke and Murakami Sensei, in Madrid, with my friend José Luis Scheneider)
I do not have many pictures of my Shotokan long months of training in Kanazawa Sensei's SKIF honbu in this computer (or in this continent) but I found videos!

This is an episode of a Russian Karate show, starred by Oleg Larionov. Three parts video on Kanazawa Sensei and on his dojo.
You can spot me plenty of times during episodes 2 and 3, training with Oleg himself. I am the guy that forgot to get shaved the day of the filming... Ah, the old days...

(Huochetou JKA dojo in Shenyang. I can't believe so many good friends in such a small picture!)
After some (too many) years separated from Shotokan (the Kyokushin years) I fell in love again with it again. I was contacted by a fellow JKA karateka and after a couple of days I got hooked again! The taste of blood in your mouth... The technical detail, the speed and power in kata, the fast paced all-or-nothing kumite just toucehd my heart.
I can't say I am a Shotokan karateka, but Shotokan is a huge part of what I do.

Our small gathering of Kirita Sensei (with already a dojo in Xi'an), Karasira Sensei (with already a University dojo) and me resulted in opening an official JKA branch in Shenyang last year (after I left).

So, same thing: go and try it. It doesn't matter what your background is, just go and try it for a few months. Chances are that you will see your technique greatly improved.

Oh, I forgot to tell you: my Sensei Celedonio García was a boxing national champion before he started Karate. No need to say that he won many Karate tournaments on his competition days.
He made us box from time to time. Ouch!


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