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Yamakura Shihan Visits the Ambler (PA) Dojo

We karateka of Ambler GKK had the honor of a visit from Yamakura Shihan the weekend of November 6-8, 2009.  It was a busy weekend, packed full of seminars, from Friday night, all day Saturday, to Sunday morning.  We were also honored by the presence of Kiyoshi Brad Smith.

     We karateka of Ambler GKK had the honor of a visit from Yamakura Shihan the weekend of November 6-8, 2009.  It was a busy weekend, packed full of seminars, from Friday night, all day Saturday, to Sunday morning.  We were also honored by the presence of Kiyoshi Brad Smith.

 Image    Since I am the lead instructor of our general (open to all ranks) class on Saturday mornings, I was particularly interested in watching and learning from Yamakura Shihan as he taught our kids and beginners.  We have typically 20-30 students in the general class, about half of them kids.  We had seriously promoted this weekend, especially to our beginners, telling them that they would get a memorable, terrific experience.  No one was disappointed.  I watched as Mr. Yamakura engaged the kids, got them moving, back and forth, forward and backward, punching and blocking.  He put the emphasis on listening and following instructions, while always moving; less so on technique refinements and verbal explanations.  They were charged!  We’ve learned some new and more effective ways of teaching beginners, and our current classes reflect what we learned from Mr. Yamakura. 

   

     For black belts, Mr. Yamakura gives us a look at where we should be going and how to get there.  We had 15+ black belts, all of which found the weekend enlightening and stimulating.  Four of the weekend seminars were black-belt-only, with excellent teaching about kata, kumite, and kihon in general, and specific advice on performing each kata.  Topics included management of ki, breathing, postures, intent, advanced instruction in kumite. 

     Here are some specific learnings as reported by the black belts:

  Image   In kumite, think one or two steps ahead of your opponent.  Identify his favorite move and plan a response to it.  Use multiple-technique sequence to set up your opponent.  For each opponent, find the best balance between avoidance (blocking) and penetrating (striking/kicking).  Prepare!

     Certain techniques that we use in the dojo are not easily applicable in a real fight, e.g., empi uchi and kakuto uke

     Breathing is crucial, and it’s important to think about breathing in kata and kumite.  Every breath in kata should be planned in advance.  This is Ibuki breathing. 

     Beginning katas through Seiunchin should be performed uniformly by all students, even though there are multiple applications of a given move.  The more advanced katas (from Sanseiru and up) may be given “personal style”. 

     On Saturday afternoon, Mr. Yamakura instructed our green and brown belts in kata and kihon.  Postures were aligned, advice given on learning kata in general, even mind-body connections were discussed.  Specific feedback was given to each student. 

     On Saturday night, after a full day of learning and working out, our entire Dojo enjoyed a Japanese banquet with Mr. Yamakura, at the Miraku restaurant.  As is always the case, every student learned new and important lessons about Goju-Ryu Karate.  We have revised our own instruction to reflect Mr. Yamakura’s insights.   We are most grateful to have the opportunity to enjoy Mr. Yamakura’s teaching.