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Training with An-Shu

I was fortunate to be able to TRAIN with An-Shu Stephen and Rumiko Hayes at their home dojo for An-Shu Stephen’s birthday training weekend. Excuse the caps lock on train, for those of you more adept at messaging I am not yelling but emphasizing the fact that we did train.

During the two days of training we worked with 5 kata from Gyokko Ryu, 2 kata from the Happo Hikken (Sword Secrets), 1 kata from Togakure Ryu, kusari fundo defenses, 2 meditation sessions, and 1 sensing danger session. And during all that we did NOT, at any time, do all the steps of any of the kata. There was no memorized regurgitation of the steps of the kata.

Mr. Hayes presented parts of each of the kata and went into the details of how our taijutsu is used to react to the energy of a specific section of the attack. For one kata he spent more time on the attack from the uke because the response is based on how the attack happens, whether it pulled inward or back to the side. With the two kata from the Happo Hikken we didn’t use swords. He isolated a moment in the kata that could be reproduced in a grappling situation and studied it from there to understand the principle within. While training outside with one of the Gyokko Ryu kata we spent almost half the session working on the Jodan Uke (high receiving block).

This was a group of high ranking individuals training and he saw fit to spend a considerable amount of time on a simple block that everyone knows? YES!

Because we were training. The details and lessons that are locked inside the kata become the fundamentals of expertise if you actually take the time to discover them and then make them your habitual responses. This summer was my 35th anniversary studying this art and during that session I picked up at least three ideas on how to improve my Jodan Uke.

Training doesn’t mean going through the motions of an entire kata everytime so you have the steps memorized. Training is breaking it apart, discovering how each of the parts work, putting it back together to see if you understand, and then taking those lessons and applying them in other situations.

Instructors you don’t have to get through the whole kata every class just because it’s on the schedule. You can take it apart to explore it and help your students begin to unlock the secrets within. If we want to be able to emulate the way An-Shu Stephen and Rumiko move then we also need to emulate how they train us.

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