This May, Kobara Sensei, assisted by Hou Sensei and Fang Sensei, visited us for a keiko (practice) session over the weekend. For the first day at the Dojo, Friday evening, the focus was on Tachi Uchi no Kurai. Of the various waza, this series comprises of paired kata with bokutou. Besides providing the curriculum to judging distance, it helps reinforces zanshin (awareness of surroundings and self). The mastery of the waza takes time and practice. Kobara Sensei highlighted the core concept and key points of each waza and let us practice it two to three times before moving on to the next. He and the other Sensei would then move around and ensure that we understood what was taught. Within a short span of two-and-a-half hours, we covered the entire syllabus with a better understanding of Tachi Uchi no Kurai and more. We also had moments of revelation when Kobara Sensei demonstrated how to do proper cuts through correct body posture and techniques.
One key observation is how Kobara Sensei would emphasize on maintaining discipline and also a relaxed, conducive and enjoyable practice atmosphere. While understandably, we would have difficulty in grasping some of the harder techniques let alone performing them correctly, Sensei would always encourage all of us while making the necessary corrections. Periodically, Kobara Sensei would show examples of why certain body postures are not in the best interest of one’s own health to much comic relief.
The second and third day of the keiko sessions were held in afternoon at the Eurasian Community House, recommended by Ashley.
The Saturday keiko session began with formal greetings and Esaka Sensei’s message to us through Kobara Sensei. We were invited to train in Japan and attend the Taikai this year. Kobara Sensei then went through Seiza no bu (seated forms) in the first half of the afternoon. During this session, he highlighted the key points for each waza and re-iterated the importance of correct body posture. For the later half of the afternoon, we were divided into separate groups for practice. Fang Sensei and Hou Sensei went through the basic waza with the other groups while Kobara Sensei covered Okuiai Tachiwaza no Bu with our group. We saw how the waza and fundamentals should be correctly performed. For some of us, it was a great opportunity to learn the remaining waza of this set. In the evening, we adjourned to Babalicious for local delights such as chicken rice, rendang, fried squid, etc.
On Sunday, the last day of keiko, Kobara Sensei led the practice beginning with Battou ho (Standing forms) while emphasizing on footwork. We would later see how the fundamentals established the foundation for Oku no Kata. At specific points during teaching of Oku no kata, we had another “Eureka” moment when he demonstrated the biomechanics in performing a gyaku kesa (reverse diagonal cut) mid stride. Key points and concepts taught on Friday evening came rushing back and suddenly everything seemed to fall into place with greater clarity. Of course the challenge then was to internalise and do it correctly. As always, Kobara Sensei would repeat and assure us: “Yukkuri, yukkuri, renshuu shi masu” – “take it easy, practice slow and correctly to good progress”. During break time, one of our members, Steffen visited us with his family in tow. In a Similar manner, the practice in the later half of the afternoon was carried out in separate groups. For our group, Kobara Sensei went through Tatehiza with us. We were able to clarify numerous misconceptions and uncertainties regarding specific techniques and footworks. Kobara Sensei would patiently break the explanations down and explain each in detail. In some instances, he would demonstrate why certain body posture is incorrect and explain in greater detail to the person who unknowingly made the mistake. He observeed everyone and made mental notes of everyone’s weaknesses and strengths! At the end of the keiko session, we adjourned to Jumbo @ Dempsey for a sumptuous dinner. Good food with good company – what better way to end off a hard day’s training?
I think everyone went away from the keiko session with learning points beyond technical details of the waza – how to create a conducive harmonious training environment, how to teach complex waza, how to train effectively. It was a pity the keiko session lasted only three days, but there is always more training opportunities as long as everyone stay the course. Til then, train mindfully, take care and see you soon!
Thank you Kobara Sensei, Hou Sensei and Fang Sensei for your patience and kind guidance. Thank you Michael Kancho and Kheng Li Sempai, special thanks to the organising committee – Kong Hoi, Noi and Alfred and support from the members for making this keiko session a meaningful one.
*Photos courtesy of Robin Choo and Andrew Boey