January 2014 – Happy new year!

Happy New Year! I hope you had a healthy, happy and safe Christmas. A little rest and recovery (even if less than two weeks) is also important, as overtraining is a real hurdle to physical progress. I have been riding to Glenelg in the mornings for some solo beach training, which I have been really enjoying. I certainly feel refreshed, and excited about resuming training for our third year.

We kick off 2014 with training on Monday January 6th. I look forward to seeing you on the mats again soon. New years are a convenient time to consider what you have done well in the past year, and what you can do better. While I don’t know that ‘resolution’ is the most appropriate word, it is a good time to reassess your position in life and make adjustments to ensure that you are travelling in the right direction. Openly discussing your goals for the year adds accountability and can be a motivating factor for some individuals. Therefore, I will articulate some of my personal goals for 2014:
1. Judo black belt – this has been pushed to the side for a while, as I have had my brown belt since 2008. Now it is time to bring my judo up to a level where I feel comfortable accepting this milestone.
2. Travel around Japan – sometime during 2014 I will take a break from Sobukan to train and travel in Japan. I will keep you all informed.
3. Spend time with my family. We have a baby due in February, so I will need to direct more of my time towards my growing family.

I also have some exercises planned for Sobukan:
1. I will further explore the relationship between our arts (jujutsu, karate, shooto, judo) and experiment with ways to improve the fluidity for application in combat and self-defence.
2. I will re-evaluate our class structure later in the year to consider the value of adding/separating/rescheduling classes. Do we want to add separate classes for Kudo, Hakkoryu jujutsu, KU, combative grappling?
3. Develop specialists in various aspects of our syllabus and cultivate leaders who can assist with junior students and lower grades to allow me to divide my time more equitably, in particular with higher belts.

After jujutsu on Saturday January 11, Umehara san will again conduct a kakizome calligraphy session. Kakizome (書き初め) literally means ‘written beginning’, and is an opportunity to think about what you would like to achieve in the new year, decide on a theme, and express that theme in a single, or multiple Japanese characters. If you can think of a theme, Umehara san and I will help you translate them into a Japanese expression, which we will brush in Japanese calligraphy. I hope you can be there.

Last year I selected yashinau, which means ‘to nuture’ or ‘to raise’ and is used in relation to growing crops, raising children or helping students develop. I am proud to say that I feel that I fulfilled this in 2013. I have a growing family, with another child due in February, my son is doing well at school and in his martial art training, and our students are developing great skill, with Sobukan’s first three green belts awarded recently.


I am still considering my ‘theme’ for 2014, but I am excited about exploring a number of new drills and skills now that we have students reaching the intermediate levels. This milestone opens a new level of training including advanced locks and chokes, kicks from the ground, clinch wrestling, guard sweeps and passes, and solo and two person kata as well as a number of new throws.

We have a number of new belt colours adorning both the Sobukan dojo and the Japanese Karate-bu. Approximately 20 of the 30 grading candidates passed outright, and more are finishing off their tests soon. Of particular note is that we now have three green belts: Max Wright, James Palmer and Steven ‘Pacey’ Pace. The adult class is now very ‘orange belt heavy’ and we have more people ready to move into the intermediate ranks very soon.

Thank you to those who attended the Christmas gathering on Sunday December 22. This was a casual, low-key affair at Glenelg beach. The adults chatted while children (and Umehara san) buried each other in the sand; we learned some new kata (including solo and two person for kamae waza); and compacted every nook and cranny with sand while wrestling on the beach. We also played mini golf, with Pacey taking out the win. Ran and Rei Mizuno were amazing to watch. It was the young girl’s first foray into mini golf, and their systematic approach and rapid improvement was incredible. Max and James Wright could not hide that they were father and son – their styles were identical!

Movie tickets – 47 Ronin 映画券
I have some tickets to give away to see 47 Ronin with Keanu Reeves at Hoyts Cinemas Norwood on Monday 13th January – meaning that the recipients will unfortunately need to skip Sobukan training on that night! Anyone who introduces a friend or family member who joins before the movie night is eligible to receive two tickets – until they run out!

Kotowaza 諺
不言実行 Fugen jikkou
Shut up and train. Less talk, more action. Actions speak louder than words. Don’t talk about it, just do it.
I think you get the message, lets move on…

Technical lesson 技の紹介
The six basic “blocks” of karate are rarely actually blocks – the moves have a number of applications including strikes, escapes from grabs, chokes, submissions and of course, defensive movements.

They are:
1. Age uke (rising block)
2. Gedan barai (lower sweep/parry)
3. Uchi uke (inside block)
4. Soto uke (outside block)
5. Kake uke (hooking block)
6. Shuto uke (sword hand block/chopping block)

Each ‘block’ consists of two basic movements. Contrary to popular belief, the more subtle first movement – not the second, more recognisable movement – usually defends the immediate attack. The basic function of the second movement in the block is to counter improve the defenders position in relation to the attacker, ie to disrupt their balance or to turn the attacker.

Age uke
Parry an incoming punch with the mirror hand and then deflect the attacking arm upwards while stepping forward with the opposite leg. This will expose the attacker’s ribs and rock them back on their heels, disrupting their balance.

Gedan barai
Parry a lower punch or kick with the mirror hand and then cross the other hand across your face (ideally slapping the attacker) and deflect the attack sideways, ensuring that you step away from the direction of the deflection. You should now have easy access to the back of the attacker.

Uchi uke
Parry a straight body punch with the mirror hand, then scoop under and deflect the arm outwards with the other hand. Again, this should give you access to the back of the attacker.

Soto uke
The attacker has grabbed your wrist with a cross grip. Straighten the trapped arm, moving to the outside of their arm and reverse the grip. Step in and lock the elbow of the attacker.

Kake uke
The attacker has grabbed your wrist with a mirror grip. Raise the hand up your centre so that your thumb moves to your chest. Hook the blade of your other hand under the attacker’s grip and circle to the outside. You can now repeat the arm lock from soto uke.

Shuto uke
The attacker swings a wide hook punch to your head. You have the option of attacking the throat, face or shoulder with the far hand, while chopping down on the attacking arm with the close hand. Take care to spread your fingers and distribute your weight forward to make contact with vulnerable meridians in the arm and increase the weight of your chopping hand.

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