Body Dynamics Karate Seminar

Karate dynamics Seminar Group, Seattle, October 3, 2015

Karate dynamics Seminar Group, Seattle, October 3, 2015

The recently concluded Body Dynamics Karate seminar was a resounding success! to all who made this event possible, we would like to thank you, Thank You!

More than 80 karatekas from as far as Port Orchard, young and old, beginners as well as advanced students came to Seattle to learn proper body technique. Learning how to execute proper body dynamics results in more power, balance, and speed.  Minakami Shihan shared techniques on how to improve your practice that will benefit traditional practitioners, instructors, and also competitors.

The principles have never before been taught outside the hombu dojo and a first in the United States. As such, all attendees were privileged to learn these new techniques from Minakami Shihan.

Ossu!

 

Three Spiritual Training

敢闘の精神(Kannto no seishin)

Fighting Spirit

不屈の精神(Hukutsu no seishin)

Indomitable Spirit

必勝の精神(Hissho no seishin)

Victorious Spirit


Fighting Spirit (敢闘の精神)

Fighting Spirit Attitude

You must feel like you are all alone with a thousand enemies in front of you. You are about to jump into that sea of enemies all on your own with all your might.  You must not be afraid of anything.  With good kiai (yell), you can let those thousand enemies know who you are by crying out your name before you attack.  Let your warrior cry be heard from corner to corner of the battlefield. Let your enemy hear your spiritual energy and feel it reverberate in their gut.  This is the fighting spirit from your soul, the essence of your living energy. It is essential to have a good strong voice come out from your hara.  Do not yell from your head or throat.  It must be done from the core of your living spirit.

It is said that a good kiai (shout) should come from a very calm mind.  Experienced martial artist will shout a very loud kiai effortlessly from the tanden (the area an inch and the half below the navel).  The kiai is the essence of courage, bravery and fighting spirit mustered from sacred sincerity.  It is not just a loud noise or yell. 

Original Fighting Spirit

What “Fighting Spirit” is is difficult to understand deeply just through definition. So let me draw another image for you:

Imagine a baby’s cry at the time of birth; upon entering the world that baby will cry out with all it's might, an excellent and original KIAI. This pure and sacred being, untouched from any human influences or circumstance, knows nothing of embarrassment, timidness or consequences of actions. It does not consider other babies and try to cry softly so as not to disturb it’s peers. Every human baby did the same thing, even you. Good cries show a lively spirited baby. 

Fighting spirit must show through good kiai first. Good kiai demonstrates a daring, spirited, lively and courageous character.  However, without training this physical voice through activities such as martial arts, singing, cheering, etc., we forget how to generate good kiai. When kiai is half-hearted or weak we cannot put forth 100% of our spirit or energy. In other words, it is impossible to do our best. This is a big problem. Ladies especially are often taught to be quiet and act “lady-like”. This is not the way of martial artist ladies. Of course refinement and culture is important to cultivate, but to prepare for times of emergency they have practice good kiai and be able to work in any situation with a sincere valiant spirit.

How to Train Fighting Spirit:

A silent Kiai is best practiced through Zazen - Akio Minakami

A silent Kiai is best practiced through Zazen - Akio Minakami

First, you must make the sound of your kiai very loud. So loud you think you might break you’re vocal cord. When I was in my 40s, my martial arts teacher said, “You’re young. Your vocal cord will heal in no time, so kiai double times louder than you are now!” I worked very hard. And though I did not break my vocal cord, I did loose my voice many times through kiai training.  But my voice always returned to normal after a few weeks.  I remember when I was 7 years old my judo teacher said “Kiai loud! And with your kiai try to break the dojo glass windows.”  My kendo teacher would say, “Kiai straight down the earth so that the people on the opposite side of the world can hear you!” The ancient martial artists in Japan always stressed the importance of kiai training. Not merely producing a loud voice, but putting your soul, mind, body and FEELING into the kiai.  Then it is not just a sound; it is the sound of your spirit and soul fully alive. Don’t make a kiai superficial with a halfhearted attitude.  You will just be making noise then.  Instead, try to find your universal potential energy through your sincere spirit. You cannot find this universal-self if you hold onto a halfhearted attitude.  You can only find it through giving all you’ve got. Without holding back, put your whole self out there. Abandon small feelings such as embarrassment, doubt, self-consciousness and timidness. GIVE ALL YOU’VE GOT! Only then will you find your true energy. Yes, I know it is not easy master. It needs many years of kiai training with correct attitude to hold onto this feeling at all times. But when you feel any doubt in yourself, imagine the day you were born and how loudly and purely you cried out to the new world. You were brave then. That energy is still in you. You can be brave now too. 

(On a side note, I have heard that kiai produces endorphins. Endorphins naturally make your feel good.  So strong kiai will make you feel good too! That is science!)

Evolution of Kiai

My kiai has changed from when I was young. During my younger days it was loud, raw and (for lack of a better word) wild. Now after 60 years of training it is deep, placid and settle.  My experience is not unique. Many expert martial artists share it. 

For serious practitioners, kiai will change naturally through sincere training.  (Note: your kiai will not improve if you do not have a sincere feeling behind it. In fact, the opposite will likely happen. You’re character may worsen and you will develop false confidence.) Once you become a master you will understand another level kiai termed the “silent kiai”. Silent kiai is kiai that is not vocalized but rather is internalized. It is not heard, but rather felt by those around you. In order to achieve this level you must go through beginner level training, intermediate level training, advanced level training, then maybe masters level training.  In every stage there is always a higher level and you must seek it. Never fool yourself by thinking you have got it or that you completely understand. As you discover higher levels of training, your wisdom will deepen and your soul will feel enriched. 

With Fighting Spirit, Find Your Own Way

Fighting Spirit is everywhere! "Surfah" fights with uncontrollable waves, the Fighting Spirit is International Braddah!! -Akio Minakami ^_^

Fighting Spirit is everywhere! "Surfah" fights with uncontrollable waves, the Fighting Spirit is International Braddah!! -Akio Minakami ^_^

No one can give you all the answers or explanations; not even your teacher because everybody is a practitioner and no one is perfect.  Often teachers make mistakes so you must be aware to catch this. Again, no one is perfect.  Your teacher will give you guidance and advice drawn from their experiences so that hopefully by the time you become a black belt, you will be capable of basics skills and have learned how to train. From there, you have to rely more on yourself in order to discover greater skill and deeper wisdom. As you start depending more on yourself, you will face greater challenges and frustrations than ever before. You might even question whether or not you can overcome these things on your own. Whenever you feel doubt or hopelessness creeping into your mind, KIAI!! Remember the strength of your original baby-time kiai. Feel freed from small feelings that shake your self-confidence. Remember, as long as you are alive, you have the potential to improve.  As long as you are alive, you can pick yourself up and try again. Live with good fighting spirit. 

-to be continued

-Akio Minakami

Samurai Spirit "Think of Others First"

This is a true story about a 9 year old boy who survived the March 11, 2011 Tohoku Earthquake Tsunami disasters in Japan. A Vietnamese exchange student in Japan reported it. He went to the disaster area three days after the tsunami and earthquake as a member of a volunteer rescue party. When he arrived it was lightly snowing and very cold. The people there were struggling to keep themselves warm. The rescue group brought them hot soup. The recipients, old and young, man and woman, made a long line to receive soup one by one. The Vietnamese rescuer saw a boy wearing shorts and a T-shirt at almost the end of the line. He approached the boy and asked him, “Why aren’t you wearing more clothing?” The boy answered that the Tsunami and Earthquake hit during P.E. class at his school. He couldn’t get to his clothes because he had to evacuate to the top of his school building. From there he saw his father inside his car get engulfed by the huge wave. His sister and mother, who were a hundred meters away from his father’s car, were also swallowed by the tsunami. He is the only one in his family who survived the catastrophe.

After hearing this, the Vietnamese rescuer took the boy’s hand and walked him to the front of the soup line. There, he handed the boy his jacket to wear and a bowl of soup. The boy looked around at the line then told the rescuer, “I will borrow this jacket. But please give that soup to the next person because they have all been waiting for three days without anything to eat. They are all as hungry as I am.”  And then he went back to the end of the long line.

-Akio Minakami

Waikiki Surfers Comes to the Dojo

From left to right: Jimmie Sornito Sensei, Herman Setijono Shihan, Alika Garces, Akio Minakami Shihan and Ikaika Garces.

From left to right: Jimmie Sornito Sensei, Herman Setijono Shihan, Alika Garces, Akio Minakami Shihan and Ikaika Garces.

Do you know how to surf?  One of the first skills that everyone has to learn is how to stand on the surfboard.  This is especially difficult when the waves causes the surf board to move in a rough and jerky motion. With the waves causing the surfboard to move in an uncontrolled manner you learn that just being able to stand on the surf board is not enough as the wave will eventually throw you off the board and into the water. You must discover how to be connected to the surfboard. You must learn how to grab the board with your feet to feel the motion of the wave.  You have to learn which part of your feet to emphasize depending on the way the waves are causing the surfboard to move under your feet.  It isn’t about how to use your hips or moving your upper body or arms in time with the wave since those things don’t matter if you are constantly knocked of the board by the wave.  Counter motions with the hips and upper body comes later once you learn how to connect with the board with your feet and feel the motion and rhythm of the waves. This is the same as in Karate.  Before you can execute a technique properly you must first learn how to stand properly with your feet connected to the ground.  Just because you are standing and you feel balanced doesn’t mean you are using your stance properly and able to transition your power and speed from your lower body to the upper body. Just like a beginning surfer learning to stand on the surfboard, the beginning karate practitioner needs to learn how to connect their feet to the ground and “stand” so that they can generate a proper technique that connects the lower body to the upper body.  Just standing in place with a “proper” looking stance doesn’t mean you are standing correctly.

 -Akio Minakami

Ichigan Nisoku Santan Shiriki 一眼二足三丹四力

一眼二足三丹四力

Ichigan  Nisoku  Santan  Shiriki

 Of all the teachings in Japanese swordsmanship, one of the most important teachings is: 1st the eye, 2nd the footwork, 3rd is the tanden (or hara), 4th the strength (or muscles).

1. Ichigan (一眼)

"If you are not calm then you can’t do things your best"

“The eyes are the window of your spirit,” therefore should check your spirit and feel if you are calm or not.  If you are not calm then you can’t do things your best.  Through breath control, first calm yourself.  That is the very first teaching.  We see this often in Japanese martial classes; classes always begin with Meisou (瞑想) or Mokusou (黙想).  We sit and calm ourselves then practice martial arts.  This action will make us think better, see things clearly, and lead to better action. 


2. Nisoku (二足)

The footwork does not exclusively pertain to the feet. Most of the power in our techniques is generated from under the hips.

Standing on a surfboard is the same as taking a strong stance in karate -Two surfers in Waikiki

Standing on a surfboard is the same as taking a strong stance in karate -Two surfers in Waikiki

Therefore, the idea of nisoku encompasses the entire lower body. In order to use footwork you must move your legs.  Without leg work, it is impossible to adjust the distance between yourself and the opponent, or execute efficient upper body techniques (punches, blocks and etc).

"Weak footwork leads to weak technique"

Knowing how to properly use the bottom of your feet is also essential; for example, depending on the situation you must adjust your weight to either the little toe or big toe side, ball and/or heel of the foot. Weak footwork leads to weak technique.


3. Santan (三丹)

 

The third is the Tanden (located approximately an inch and a half below the navel).  This is where you think, see, hear, feel, taste and smell from.

 

As a martial artist, everything you do should be done from the HARA (Tanden). What does this mean? When we think from our brain, many times it makes us busy. We have so much information coming at us (whether we like it or not) via the media, friends, cellphones etc.; without our knowing we are constantly bombarded with all kinds of information making us think non-stop. We are rarely free from unnecessary thoughts. Often, when our mind is busy thinking about many things, our body begins unconsciously breathing short and shallow. This in turn perpetuates a “stirred up” feeling and inhibits our ability to do our best.

 

"When a computer has too many processes working at the same time, the computer slows down"

 

Our mind is very similar to a computer. When a computer has too many processes working at the same time, the computer slows down. It cannot perform tasks efficiently. Sometimes, the computer will freeze up or even crash. How do we solve this problem? Simple: We close down some of the programs so the computer can focus on the most important task you want it to do. The same thing happens in the human mind. When it is processing too many tasks at once, it starts freezing up, crashing, and making mistakes. This leads to a spiral effect of frustration, confusion, anxiety, sometime even anger or fear. In this state of mind we cannot do our best, can we? So how do we solve this? The same way we solve the computer problem. We close down programs by breathing from our HARA.

 

"when our conscious mind is free from extra thoughts, our subconscious mind has more room to react"

 

When we finish one process and then go on to the next, we can do things with a calm and confident feeling. Further, when our conscious mind is free from extra thoughts, our subconscious mind has more room to react to unexpected situations efficiently and effectively.

For instance, if you saw a glass falling from a table and your mind consciously started thinking “glass is falling, I must catch it otherwise it's going to break!” and then you tried to catch it, it would be too late. Your body would move too slowly under the control of your busy computer-like mind. However, if when you saw it falling, you simply reacted to catch it (without going through so many conscious thoughts), you would move swiftly and succeed. When the conscious mind is quiet, the subconscious mind is capable of incredible things!

Perhaps you can remember a time during kumite (sparing) practice when you had been too cautious, thinking many things such as “I better be careful” or “how should I attack?” or perhaps just clinging to a feeling of wanting to avoid pain. When you had this state of mind and the opponent attacked, you could feel your movements were staggered and counters were stiff, perhaps even missing. This was because your conscious mind was occupied with too many thoughts and your subconscious could not come through smoothly.

Speaking to the experienced (not necessarily advanced) martial artist, can you remember a time when faced with an opponent and that opponent attacked and you instinctively counter attacked within a split second? Can you remember how smooth, clean and swift your technique was? The movement started and finished without consciously trying. It just happened! This was because your previous counter technique training came through your subconscious in a time of perceived urgency.

When both minds work together harmoniously it is called the state of Samadhi. To bring forward subconsciousness in working order we must eliminate clutter in the conscious mind so we can stay calm. Like this, if we trust ourselves and let the subconscious come forward to work in many situations, we can do things with great calm and swiftness. This is what it means to “see things from Hara, hear things from Hara, smell things from Hara” etc. Trust yourself and stay calm. You will do better than if you tackle tasks with a busy mind.


"Do not dwell on or attach yourself to thoughts or problems."


To be clear, I am not saying, “don't think”.  I am saying, don't think unnecessary thoughts habitually. Learn how to relax your mind as much as possible, and be free from thinking about that which is not important in your life. Feel like you're on the beach: lying on the sand, closing your eyes and letting the sun engulf you head to toe, making your whole body warm from the sun’s rays. When you are feeling the sun’s rays, you're not thinking too much about anything other than just feeling the sun. Isn’t that a wonderful feeling? That is the zazen state of mind. We should be seeking this state of mind as much as possible.  But when you need to think, then you need to think deeply, like you need to solve the problem. And after you do your best, either get it over with or drop it. Do not dwell on or attach yourself to thoughts or problems. Thinking all the time is not good for you, physically and mentally. In emergency situations, usually there is no time for you to think, so just relax and let yourself be ready to react to tasks at hand. This is called 腹を据える(hara wo sueru), let your stomach set or be determined. Or 覚悟を決める (kakugo wo kimeru), no more struggling "GO FOR BROKE”.

Taiyaki Time! Good food makes our Hara (stomach) happy so we can do our best all day long  ^_^ -AkioMinakami©2015

Taiyaki Time! Good food makes our Hara (stomach) happy so we can do our best all day long  ^_^ -AkioMinakami©2015

You will need to research and practice for many years before you will deeply understand and be comfortable “doing from Hara”. Do not be discouraged. Meanwhile, focus on breathing through this region (hara) and when you need to drop your physical center of gravity, drop it to here in order to generate your power, gain stability and acquire speed.


4. Shiriki (四力)

 

The fourth and last part of the teaching is strength.  Why is strength listed at the end, almost like an afterthought? Japanese ancients believed it was unwise to depend on strength, and instead favored using Waza (skill).  Here is a story I have heard in past: Two carpenters lived in a village. One was young and well known for being a man of great strength. The other was a very old man, not so strong but who had done carpentry all his life. Both were working together to build a house, nailing boards into place. The young man, with his handsomely defined muscles, strongly and courageously pounded the nails into place, exerting great effort and making a quite the show. The old man, without so much strength, but rather using the weight of the hammer, simply and quietly pounded the nails into place, matching his breath naturally and calmly to each movement.

To make the story short, the young man ended up getting tired and giving up way before the old man. This story shows that it is not strength of muscles but rather experience, correct body movement and breath control that is important.

This is not to say that it is acceptable to be lazy about strengthening your body and cardiovascular endurance.  But try not to think “power” equals strength of muscles.  Research and find the smart skill that will lead to enduring power.

This is the Way of the Ancient Japanese Martial Artists:

ICHIGAN NISOKU SANTAN SHIRIKI. 一眼二足三丹四力

 

-Akio Minakami

Responsibility

AkioMinakami©2015

AkioMinakami©2015

A cherry blossom blooms beautifully  
deep in the mountains, whether you look at it or not.

You are responsible for your own spiritual development in this life and no one can do it for you.
You must work on your own character building at all times.
Do not cheat yourself even if no one is watching.

If you do choose to follow a negative way of life, you will stain your pure spirit and pay for what you caused in the future.
You can’t hide from the universal divine eye, spirit or energy.
It is always with you; it's called conscience.

- Akio Minakami

This is The Mind of our Dojo

Ryoma (AkioMinakami©2015)

Ryoma (AkioMinakami©2015)

Karate training is to practice Ryukyu martial arts in order to find yourself and temper and forge your spirit to become a strong, kind and good person. To consult with your own conscience with a calm mind is essential, as is choosing to do good at all times and not wandering in the wrong direction.

When you look at the buds on a cherry tree, it doesn't bloom; but when you look at it few weeks later, the flower is blooming beautifully. So when you were looking at it the first time it was in the process of becoming a flower. Each moment we're working towards blooming. Therefore each second or moment we're in the process of becoming.

You can't become lazy and neglect working toward good deeds. If you do, then your bud might drop before it blooms into a flower. Let's keep that process in good shape. And bloom like the beautiful cherry blossom tree.

This is Minakami Karate.

 -Akio Minakami