Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A New Rank in a New Shorinji Kan Curriculum

If you follow my blog regularly, you know that this fall I got back into training in Shorinji Kan Jiu-jitsu under Jonathan Jamnik Sensei at his dojo in Vancouver. I had trained with him and with Kevin Eugene Sensei at the BCIT dojo in Burnaby over a year ago, having double graded and earned my orange belt. I ended up taking a break from it for a little while I focused on my own dojo, but decided to get back into it with a goal of developing my throwing skills more since Shorinji Kan places a heavier emphasis on throwing than we do in Can-ryu.

There was a big change when I came back though. A new curriculum had been developed with the addition of Henka-waza (transitions) and Kaeshi-waza (counters) as applied to throws, joint locks and ground work.

With all the changes, I was glad there was no talk of double-grading again. At first it seemed like there so just so much more to learn on the curriculum, I wondered if I would even learn it all in time for the November grading. The additions affected all my previous kyu levels as well as the one I was grading for, and I was expected to know them all. But as I spent more time playing with the new additions, I realized it wasn't so overwhelming after all. The so-called "additions" weren't all that "additional". The transition and counter training techniques were more a way of teaching how to flow between the different moves so that students don't get stuck on one way of getting the job done, so to speak. When trained correctly, it helps students adapt to the changing circumstances that are likely to occur in a real physical encounter.

The key to training transitions and counters correctly is to maintain proper intention, which can be tricky at times. If training a transition, you have to go in for the initial move, whether it's a throw or joint lock, with the intention of completing it. If you only go in for the initial move half-committed, holding to the goal of the final transitory move in mind, you miss the point. The transition is only meant to be used if the first move fails.

As an uke, it's a good idea to let your tori follow through with the first move on occasion, as well as performing the appropriate counter for the purpose of transition practice. This helps "keep it real." As for counter training, uke should always try to throw tori for real so they develop the necessary movement skills to do a proper counter. Of course, when first learning a counter, it's a good idea to go more slowly, while still committing to the throw.

As for the test, all went relatively smoothly and I passed. As always, there were a number of things I would have liked to do better. I certainly wish I hasn't lost my balance while performing a ko-uchi-gari and fallen butt first onto my uke's chest with all my weight :(. Thankfully, my uke was a strapping fellow weighing in at over 200 lbs, so he could handle the unexpected blow. But when all is said and done, I accomplished my goal of improving my throwing skills, and certainly the transition and counter training played an important part of that. I look forward to working on those skills further as I continue with my progression as a martial artist.