What a great seminar last weekend. The seminar was planned by Senseis Steve Gower, Chris Moulinier, and Bob Noel, and was held at Balance Martial Arts in Morrisville, North Carolina, which was a great location. I actually lived about two miles from there for about three years, and never stopped by. That was my loss!
We had eight instructors covering nine different martial arts. Attendees included both children and adults, and I must admit I was flabbergasted by the wonderful behavior, attentiveness, and serious practice of all of the younger attendees. What a great bunch of folks. Everyone trained hard, asked thoughtful questions, and I think, came away a better martial artist.
Sensei Manuel Byers opened the seminar with a great session on Chito-ryu Karate by teaching one of their basic katas. Chito-ryu is a style of karate founded in 1946 by Dr. Tsuyoshi Chitose. Sensei Byers then went on to demonstrate some bunkai from some of their katas. Sensei Byer’s charisma and interesting presentation were the perfect openings to what would be a terrific day of training.
Sensei Bob Noel followed next with a terrific session on Uechi-ryu basics and then transitioned over to Sanchin Kata. Sanchin is the first kata taught in Uechi-ryu and is a foundational kata for many Okinawan and Chinese systems. Often, the basics get pushed aside to do the “cool stuff.” Sensei Noel reminded us how necessary the basics are to do the cool stuff! It is all about mastery of the basics.
Next, Sensei Dan Gilbert led a class on Shunpookan Aikido, focusing on the first “basic” technique on the aikido syllabus called “Ikkyo.” Ikkyo seems to be all about controlling the shoulder through the elbow and “upsetting” the attacker’s posture, thus allowing you to hit them with the floor – hard. Everyone really enjoyed this session and the aikidoka present made it look so dang easy. If I was just a bit younger …
Next, we broke for a provided lunch of pizza, donuts, and assorted drinks. It was great just to mingle and talk to old friends as well as make a few new ones. I enjoyed talking to both Sensei Manuel Byers and Sensei Chesseley Robinson as well as to some of my old friends in the aikido group.
Seisan Kata Demo
After lunch, we had a demonstration of five different Okinawan versions of Seisan Kata. Sensei Manuel Byers performed the Chito-ryu version, Sensei Mouliner – the Matsubayashi Shorin-ryu version, and Sensei Noel – the Uechi-ryu version. Jean Gregory demonstrated the Seidokan version and Sensei Gilbert – the Isshin-ryu version. The Uechi-ryu version was quite different from the other versions, having, I think, retained much more of its original Chinese influence.
Next, Sensei Darren Gilbert presented a session covering a principle found in the Kenpo Gokui, “Two hands meet in the air, suddenly enter,” and how that might be applied in exploring kata bunkai. Isshin-ryu is fundamentally an aggressive counter-striking style of karate, and participants seemed to enjoy seeing this approach. Remember, the best way to block a punch is to not be where it is thrown!
Sensei Chris Moulinier then led a session focusing on Naihanchi Kata and using techniques from the kata to counter grabs, chokes, and other grappling-style techniques. It was a fantastic session and seeing the techniques from this kata work well on an opponent who is much taller and bigger was a real eye-opener for many in attendance.
Wing Chung Kung Fu
Following that session, Sensei Alex Wall led a great class on Wing Chun Kung Fu, the style made famous by Bruce Lee in the 1973 movie classic, Enter the Dragon. Sensei Wall covered some basic parrying and trapping drills from this style. I found this to be particularly interesting due to some similarities found in the Isshin-ryu Karate system. It was humous to see that many of the younger attendees did not even know who Bruce Lee was!
Sensei Steve Gower finished out the day with a session on utilizing some of the grappling and takedown techniques he finds in the Uechi-ryu Kata, stemming from his additional background in judo and Brazilian jujitsu. His session added a great deal of support to the idea that, due to the necessity of maintaining good body mechanics, many styles use the very same sound movements – just in a different way.
Day 1 was a huge success. Everyone was hungry and tired, but also looking forward to Day 2!
Tae Kwon Do
On Sunday morning, Sensei Chesseley Robinson started us off with a session on developing your kicking skills, leading the group through a series of stretching and kicking drills designed to increase your flexibility, kicking dexterity, and power. Everyone had a great time in this session, working up quite a sweat and by the end, I am sure all were kicking a little faster and a little harder.
Largo Mano Escrima
Sensei Richard Rosenthal led the group through a well-received session on Largo Mano Escrima. Escrima is the Filipino version of the Spanish word for fencing, esgrima, and is essentially a bladed-weapon art. Sensei Rosenthal covered basics, distance, and then Cinco Teros, a great flow drill comprised of the five basic Largo Mano Escrima cuts. There was much enthusiastic swinging of sticks (so nobody would lose a finger) and everyone had a great time.
Sensei Moulinier finished out the second day with a wonderful session on Shinkage-ryu Kenjutsu (translates to – new shadow school). I really enjoyed working on the first few techniques from their first sword kata. I was also extremely impressed with the talented young lady who assisted Sensei Moulinier with the class. Very poised, skilled, and professional! I think this is an art I could really enjoy studying. So many arts, so little time.
Final Thoughts …
By all accounts, everyone had a fantastic time and learned a great deal about other arts and styles, and there was enthusiastic support to repeat this event next year. I certainly hope that will be the case. The American Self-Defense Federation will support that 100%!
Also, it would be remiss of me to not thank Erin Seto for her efforts to video and photograph this memorable event. The pictures in this post are the result of her hard work. Thank you, Erin!