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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Changing Hands


SFU Karate has a long history of changing hands between Shotokan and Wado Ryu. The club was initiated in the 1980’s by Sensei Andrew Holmes a leader in bringing Shotokan to Western Canada. At the time it was the only martial arts club existing on the SFU campus out side of wrestling. SFU is now the home of more than a dozen schools of Martial Arts.

After Sensei Holmes the SFU club was passed on to Sensei Peter Stoddart who at the time was a practitioner of Shotokan but has since transitioned in to Wado Ryu. As Mr. Stoddart transitioned through styles so did the Karate club. It held as a Wado club for quite some time until disassembling in 2009.

I had heard rumor of the loss of the SFU Karate club and immediately contacted the SFU REC administration. Eventually taking over the club for two years, I taught an introduction to Shotokan Karate at SFU until a recent move to Japan in 2011. The club has since been passed on to Sensei Bob Mooney thus becoming a Wado Ryu club once again.

SFU Karate is held once a week and offers an introduction to Karate. Those who are serious about Martial Arts are encouraged to continue training in off campus Dojos or with in other on campus Martial Arts clubs. Most of the current students are quite new to the Martial Arts with little or no training out side of the two years I spent with SFU. Below is an interview that I conducted with Sensei Bob Mooney in regards to SFU Karates most recent transition.


K: Have you every changed styles of Karate through out your career. If so what have you seen as the benefits and challenges of changing styles and what prompted you to change styles?

B: During my career I've trained in a simple and brutal self defense system. Tried my hand at Tae Kwon Do but found that I didn't quite have the flexibility for it, after which I enjoyed a 15 year hiatus until beginning my training in Wado ryu.

K: Could you elaborate on the self defense system you trained in?

B: When I was a teenager and the smallest kid in the school there was a group of students that attempted to bully me. I tried to convince my parents that karate would help me out but they were against it. Later I enrolled in a self defense class at a community centre, which I had to pay for out of after school earnings.

The instructor was ex British Special Forces. I didn't realize it then but he taught a fundamental approach to personal safety and self defense that is as applicable today as ever. He mostly taught us to be aware of our surroundings at all times, to avoid dangerous places and to not act like victims.

For those instances where we would find ourselves in trouble he taught from the Fairbairn manual. I didn't realize this until I picked up a copy several years later: eye gouges, chin jabs, knee strikes, elbow breaks, ear slaps, throat strikes, joint locks, finger breaks. All techniques which need no finesse just a desire to hurt your attacker and give you a chance to get away.

His lessons on situational awareness were so well taught that I've not had to use any of the physical techniques that he also taught for when things go really wrong.

K: Before passing on the SFU club, which has had a long history of passing between Shotokan and Wado ryu, I was teaching a class that had its foundations in Shotokan but infused "semi"-full contact Kumite based on Kyokushin and some basic grappling based on Judo, Jujutsu and Wing-chun.

I have read that Shotokan is one of the easier styles of Karate to transfer out of. Largely because of the over exaggerated movements and heavy focus on Kihon. What strengths did you find the students carried over from their past experiences that proved to be helpful in their transitions?

B: I've found that most styles emphasize kihon Idori and Waza as central to their curriculum. Wado is no different in this respect. The major difference is the purpose of training kihon. In Wado emphasis is placed on stance of course, but more is placed on correct posture and teaching awareness of ones seichusen and how to move around the seichusen, shifting body weight, getting out of the line of attack, closing and maintaining fighting distance, in short teaching principles of movement and body mechanics that are common to most if not all martial arts. The students brought with them a solid sense of Kihon, and the desire to continue with this type of training.

K: What deficits did you find the students to have? Are there any techniques that have been particularly troublesome? For example I know that the way a Shuto-uke is performed in Wado Ryu is quite different from the way it is performed in Shotokan.

B: The greatest deficiencies are poor posture, stances too long for their body types (leg lengths), and their preconceptions of what constitutes power generation ie: to much muscle tension (very common among men and some women).

Shuto-uke is different but not a great challenge for them as they must perform this technique in Mahanmi Nekoashidachi so is quite different and constitutes an entirely new technique for them. Other techniques such as Tobi Komi Zuki, Tobi Komi Zuki Nagashi, Junzuki Notuskomi, Kete Junzuki Notsukomi, Gyakuzuki Notsukomi and Kete Gykuzuki Notuskomi are entirely Wado ryu and shared by no other style so while challenging for them they have no experience physically nor intellectually with them.

K: How did the students respond to the change of style? Did you loose any students as a result of the change? Were any of the students intentionally resistant to change or seemingly effected by proactive interference?


B: They responded very well to instruction, while no one has come to me and said they don't like the style they were asked for feedback on my instruction and if they thought I should change to meet their needs. It's interesting to note that they were more interested at the time (end of the second class) in more physical activity rather than the technical aspects of karate. So I maintained a high level of crushing workouts and then swung into Kihon Idori and Waza interspersed with technical points. My Bokken is called the student beater for a reason hahahaha.

I'm not aware of losing students yet I'd be surprised if one female student hadn't dropped out, too much in a hurry, lots of potential though. As for proactive interference...there has been some and I'd be shocked if there wasn't. This is more prevalent in two of the more active male students largely due to the fact that they're men and try to rely solely on their native strength to move. It'll take years for them to fully relax but they'll get there as long as they continue to train.

K: When I was working with the SFU club one of our major focuses was deriving Bunkai from the Heian Kata, Known as the Pinan-Kata in most all styles of Karate other than Shotokan, we did not use traditional long range Bunkai as is seen in most Shotokan styles but rather we used a style of Bunkai that explored close range combat. Do you explore any Bunkai in your classes and if so have the students pointed out any cross over and/or differences?

B: While there is no prescribed Bunkai in the Wado Pinan Kata nor any of the other Kata in the Wado curriculum, there have been some Bunkai created that are used to underscore the use of principles being taught through out the Kata. Wado is all about close range combat and is best seen demonstrated through Kihon Kumite or Kai-kata sequences that are unique to Wado.

K: How were you able to effectively aid the student’s transitions from one style to the next? Did you have to adapt your teaching style in any way for the new class and what was most difficult for you to deal with in relation to working with the students through out their transition?

B: First and foremost I had to determine what level the students were at, how proficient they were with Kihon Idori and Waza. I have found the use of humor to be very important. Meaning you need to find out what has motivated them to learn a Martial Art, engage in conversations, encourage them to open up and let them know that they too can become martial artists. It just takes a commitment of time and energy to accomplish that goal.

This got me in the front door so to speak and their response has been very positive. The most difficult task in transitioning was making sure that they knew where the seemingly nonsensical techniques were going. Once it was tied into a series of techniques, Kata things got easier for them to absorb and for them to accept that I'm leading them on a journey towards a definite attainable goal.

I do a lot of instructing at Nikkei National Cultural Centre as part of the museums school outreach program. Usually I have 30 minutes to give a feel of what karate is all about to 15 kids varying from grade 5 to 9. Every kid is very different. You become a very fast study in human nature and motivation.

The hardest part of teaching at SFU was realizing that there is at least one group of students that get my jokes hahahahahahahahaha

K: Is there anything else you would like to touch on in relation to transitioning between styles of Karate or martial arts in general?

B: After studying for over 15 years in Karate, Jiujutsu, and Ryukyu Kobudo it wasn't until I started Iaido that I realized I had become a Martial Artist, that the principles of movement in all that I've studied are the same and are constantly refined through day to day practice, that that practice doesn't always mean being in the Dojo and that when I am teaching in the dojo its not about receiving the training as much as training the students. Although I really like receiving training...hahahahahaha

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