Soshikan Times Issue#30
About Kyu-i and Dan-i (Belt ranks)
With the improvement of your techniques, you will acquire “Kyu-i” or “Dan-i” which are belt ranks, and each Kyu or Dan represents a different standard of its techniques by means of the color of the belts. Different schools present different levels of ranks and differ in where they start. Belt colors are also different, but it seems black belt is commonly defined as the first level of the first dan.
About Shogo-i (Teaching title)
In Soryu Karate, Shogo-i (Teaching title) is certified other than Kyu-i and Dan-i, which allows the qualification holders to examine their students in their promotional tests and open a branch as an instructor.
The first teaching title is called “Jo Kyo Ho” which applies to after acquiring the first Kyu. After the Jo Kyo Ho, teaching title and belt ranks will be applied one after the other such as “Jo Kyo Ho,” “First Dan,” “Jo Kyo,” “Second Dan,” “Quasi training instructor,” “Third Dan,” and “Teaching instructor.”
Soshikan Times Issue#31
Characteristics of Soryu Karate
Kata is designed to train in an individual training, and is created with a combination of offense and defense which that accommodates various combats scenarios. Instead of training in only Omote (front) which is used in other schools, Soryu students learn but Omote and Ura (back), which is true to Soryu’s idea of incorporating two sides of the same coins.
Soryu invented both Omote and Ura in Kata, the first of its kind in the Karate world. Tameshiwari Kata, a type of Kata using Tameshiwari (the art of breaking objects), is also a Soryu Karate invention.
2. Yakusoku Kumite
Yakusoku Kumite is a training method in which two students spar with each other. While traditional Karate focuses on Kara and Full Contact focuses on Kumite in their training, Soryu Karate focuses on Yakusoku Kumite in training.
Souke searched for a suitable training method for many years without success and, in the end, he invented Yakusoku Kumite. Training with two people using offense and defense gives you more effective ways to acquire techniques compared with Kara which is used in an individual training. It’s also effective as conditioning training by punching and kicking each other.
3. Hard method and Soft method
Ryukyu Martial arts, a predecessor of Karate, is designed to fight during the course of combat brawling, so the tactics include not only punches and kicks, but also grabs and throws. Hard method includes punches and kicks, and Soft method includes throws and grappling.
It is not correct to think if Karate uses only hard method. Original Karate is a martial art in which both hard methods and soft methods.
In Soryu Karate, we train in the soft method including TaiSabaki (body positioning), Sanbon Kumite (three points fighting), Kuzushi (destroy or demolish by unbalancing an opponent), Tanto Dori (knife defense), and Tekubidori hou (wrist grabs).
Kumite means fighting with each other. There are three Kumite types in modern Karate. "Sundome (寸止め)" judges victory or defeat, depending on where you stop your punch, kick, or strike just before impact. "Koushiki (硬式) judges where you strike your opponent, but both wear protective gear. “Full Contact (フルコンタクト) Kumite” is an organized matches where you attack to your opponent directly without wearing protective gear.
Each Kumite has a different characteristics, and a common rule is that you are not allowed to grab or throw your opponent, which is considered an illegal move. However, in Soryu Karate Kumite, grabs, throws, and strangleholds are allowed. We call Soryu’s unique characteristics “Soryu Kumite.”
Soshikan Times Issue#34
The Soryu Main Dojo, "SoRyuKan," is located in Sasebo, Saga Prefecture, which has several U.S. military bases. Around the time when I began training in Soryu Karate at SoRyuKan, a number of American soldiers were training with us at the Dojo. After they left Japan, they opened their own Dojo and started teaching their Soryu Karate in the United States.
The Dojo that they opened were not certified by the Soryu main office as Soryu dojo. We stood by quietly because they were training in Karate far from us. However, American Soryu Karate has changed over the years from what Souke taught; its instructors teach principles and techniques that are no longer the same.
Souke Emiko was concerned about the Karate being taught to the children and young people of the United States, advertised to them as true Soryu, and directed the Soryu teachers in Japan to transfer authentic Soryu Karate by opening certified Soryu branches in America.
Thankfully, there are teachers in the U.S. who want to learn and acquire the skills of correct Soryu. We are opening new Soryu Branches with the help of those teachers.
I (Takamichi) can’t wait to see the students now learning from their teachers become the great Soryu teachers of the next generation, and for Soryu Karate-Do to take root in the U.S. This time, since a Soryu branch was newly opened in New York, I will introduce Soryu in the U.S. as I know it.
One of the biggest Soryu associations in the U.S. is called “SKA” - the Soryu Karatedo Association. It is based in Austin, Texas, and is one of the most active U.S. Soryu associations. It is completely different from the All Japan Soryu Karate-Do Association (全日本総流空手連盟) in Japan, and it is not certified by the Soryu main office.
Despite their Soryu Karate being so different from what we do in Japan, I have never thought of the U.S. Soryu teachers as a disgrace. Rather, since Japan does not have so many instructors teaching Soryu Karate in the right way, I am thankful that there are teachers in the U.S. who respect the name of Soryu.
Souke used to say, “Even a skilled person would take 13 years to acquire the skills and principles of Soryu, if he or she trains every day.”
It may not take so long if you want to learn just Kata, but if you want to understand the real significance of Soryu, it would take a number of years.
Considering the Soryu Karate practitioners in the U.S. who learned it in Japan would have spent at most three years studying, it is understandable that they could not complete a Soryu training course, and their training would have been superficial.
I can see why an instructor in need of students would be tempted to depart from Soryu for something more American, but I believe it is the duty of Soryu students to pass on Soryu Karate in the right way as long as there is even one person who wishes to learn the true Soryu Karate.
Souke gave me (Takamichi Koyasu) a free hand regarding the opening of the Soryu branch in New York. I started the process in July 2013, and it took me about 10 months before the new branch was open. If I were good at English, it could have been done more quickly and smoothly.
That being said, a new branch has finally been opened.
I’m sure there be many issues related to geographical distance, budget, and cultural and language differences. I would like to go forward with continued patience. I’d appreciate your ongoing support in accomplishing this task.
Soshikan Times Issue#39
Karate, which you are learning, was inherited from Ryukyu martial arts after moving from Okinawa to the main island of Japan around early in the Taisho Era (1913-1925).
Many of the Ryukyu martial artists studied Karate from either Anko Itoshu from Shurite or Kanryo Higaonna from Nahate in the Ryukyu islands. Since many Kata that we use today were invented by Itosu and Higaonna, it is natural that any Karate schools incorporate similar Kata.
Now, what is Kata used for?
Initially, Kata was invented in order to acquire skills during individual training assuming various attacks and defense patterns.
As a rule, Kata always starts with a defensive position. No Kata does begins with an attack. Like the saying goes, “No first move in Karate,” the purpose of Karate is not to attack your opponent. It is a martial art to protect yourself.
Shurite is characterized by the speed in Kata, and students strive to develop agility. Nahate focuses on conditioning by training in Kata, so their Kata would look strong. We say generally “Kata,” but the content of Kata is different depending on the school.
Kata was handed down from Okinawa. Because there was no cameras, videos, or DVDs to record Kata all the time, all Kata was inherited through training, and acquired only during lessons.
Kata, which has been inherited through training during lessons, has changed over the years because student(s) have incorrectly interpreted Kata, either deliberately or mistakenly. So even though a Kata may bear the same name, the interpretation differs in each school.
Nowadays, world Karate competitions are frequently held, and we can see many impressive demonstrations of Kata on the internet. As I’m watching those videos, I am reminded of Souke’s words.
Souke talked about Kata as follows:
“Many different forms of Kata were invented over the years through the misinterpretation of Kata, either deliberately or mistakenly. If you perform Kata as a traditional art, you should research the origin as much as possible. However, if you do Kata as a basic form of Karate-Do, you do not need to pursue the original form. Therefore, it is nonsense to point out whether part of your Kata is wrong when Kata does not follow the original form. If you say a Kata is correct, that doesn’t necessarily imply it’s the original Kata. It would use a practical punch, defense, and position of your feet. It means the form of the Kata is useful as an actual Kumite (sparring).
If a Kata is unnecessarily changed to be like a dance or an art, I can’t say it is a Kata. “
From Souke’s point, we train in Kata to be useful in Kumite (sparring). We call these Kata as “Existence of Kata.”
In either case, since Kata is performed through individual training, it it (it is) fair to say that you can keep training with it at any age according to your physical strength and techniques. This is the reason we say, “Karate begins with Kata, and ends with Kata.”
Souke said, “There’s been a trend of pride of knowing lots of Katas or a few difficult Katas, but if you want to master Kata, you need to keep training the Kata continuously for many years. Some students even train in a single Kata for their entire lives.”