So, Manji Uke. It’s just a double block combining a Gedan Barai Uke (lower level sweeping block) and Age Uke (upper level rising block), right? Not in my Dojo it isn’t.
Last night the Sempai at my Dojo took us thorough a number of Kata, starting with the Heians and progressing on up through to the ones I am currently working on for my Nidan testing… and beyond. Not only are these Sempai so well versed in all the Kata, they understand them.
They took something like the Manji Uke last night and demonstrated it…and not in a one-dimensional manner. They did so in a way that incites you to think about a move. This single technique from one of the 26 Shotokan Kata became a multidimensional revelation of what karate is truly about: a lifelong study of a fascinating and never-ending Art of both physical and inner discovery.
We’ve heard all kinds of interesting analogies, tips and tricks stated in Shotokan classes in a variety of ways. Examples include: ‘Keep your karate-beaten nose out of it’ to remind you to keep your head back in a fight; ‘the best place for your feet in a fight are on the floor’ to remind you that the karate kick isn’t always the best weapon; ‘give your action a direction’ to remind us about channeling power.
One that I heard from Sensei Bruce Lee just this week caught my attention: ‘hit them with the floor!’ This was an excellent way to remind us that in Shotokan, we use the ground beneath us to generate fight-terminating power. Sensei Lee starts all his classes with us finding our ‘body connection’ which means our limbs in relation to our body core, as well as our entire body connection to the floor.
In teaching, one of our Sempai in particular does a lunge punch and then draws a line from the back foot, up the leg, up the body and out through his arm, illustrating how we generate our power from the ground…and, quite honestly, if you’ve ever watched someone like Andre Bertel (pictured here) hit something, you’d see how this connection generates tremendous power.
Many karate-ka can hit you with the floor…