Friday, April 2, 2010

Guest Blog: Sensei S. Takes the Wheel

Just in case you've grown tired of hearing me blather on endlessly about my karate adventures, I invited Sensei S. to take the reigns and post about our recent experience in Sellinsgrove, Pennsylvania at the Susquehanna Martial Arts Symposium. A sixth dan in USA Goju who's studied martial arts for well over 30 years, he's extremely astute and knowledgeable, but he's also a very private sort of guy - which means it took a lot of begging and pleading to get him to post his thoughts here (seriously - I really made a pest of myself), but I'm sure you'll appreciate his insight as much as his students do...


The Susquehanna Martial Arts Symposium

Senseis Nakamura, S. and Mann

I wasn't sure what to expect upon arrival. The group was smaller than I anticipated. Shortly after our arrival, Jeff Mann Sensei - the symposium organizer - got right into an invigorating warmup. By the time Tetsuji Nakamura Sensei engaged us for kihon, we were warmed up and ready to go. Nakamura Sensei's session on kihon was informative and productive. It was great being a student again.

I guess what stuck out was the explanation for everything we did. Although there were attendees from different styles, we all understood Sensei's demonstration of techniques and their intention. I found myself jotting copious notes on kakie - a variation of "push hands" that was somewhat different than we were used to, but felt so intuitive and natural. We also did mushimi technique with an excellent explanation on sinking the body and generating power. I purposely chose partners from outside the group I came with so I might better experience the flavor of the applications. It was nice to be reminded of and brought back to the basics of Goju-Ryu.

On a particular note, I was tickled by the scheduling of Pekiti Tersia on the program, led by Guro Wes Tasker. The concepts of Pekiti Tersia seem far removed from Goju-Ryu - and yet at our home, Shin Ri Tan Kyu Martial Arts Academy, we also embrace the teachings of Pekiti Tersia taught by Guro Douglas Marcaida of Rochester, NY. It is such an interesting dichotomy. I think the systems actually complement each other.

Which goes to my point: There was an openness about this symposium. While re-enforcing the teachings of the Goju-Kai, the practitioners were also open to the ideas and applications presented by other styles. Since my students have a background in Pekiti, they were all comfortable with the baston - yet every person in the room willingly embraced the techniques shown. It was a learning experience for all.

The "Women, Violence and Self-Defense" forum was particularly enlightening. I have taught common sense self-defense for years to male and female high school students and it was informative to hear from a PA state trooper who sees the extreme cases, although my female students were not in agreement with some of his summations. However bad a personal situation becomes, there's never an excuse to resort to violence, unless in self-defense.

Mann Sensei's "Zanchin: Theory and Practice" seminar took us through techniques that are normally done in a classroom setting - but his techniques developed a follow-through, which forced you to think a situation through and finish. Regular practice with these techniques would be a great way to develop muscle memory for self-defense techniques.

The high point for me was Sunday's exploration into kata and bunkai. It's a given that Peter Urban had a different interpretation of Goju-Ryu techniques. It was nice to explore the root of Goju-Ryu forms from Nakamura Sensei and a comparison of the derivatives of other systems.

It was a great experience and something I'd like to do again and would encourage anyone wishing a deeper understanding and foundation of Goju-Ryu to partake in. Kudos to Mann Sensei on a well put together event.


  1. Well put Sensei! I am in agreement, I will do again next year if the opportunity presents itself. (I'll even drive again - for those of you who enjoyed the ride!) Wonderful weekend shared with great friends.