Karate Kenkyu Club (circa 1926). Left to right: Tokunori Senaha, Keiyo Madambashi, (two unknown), Chojun Miyagi, Seko Higa, (unknown), Seiko Kina.
A lot of people have asked me about training since I’ve been back so I thought I’d write a little about traditional training in the honbu dojo. Generally speaking our sessions would follow a predictable and consistent format most nights. We’d begin with the same sequence of junbi undo (preliminary warm-ups) and usually move on to hojo undo (traditional supplementary training) and/or kihon (basics) or kihon ido (basics with movement). There is a strong emphasis on hojo undo and basics in Sensei’s classes and we’d often alternate between the two on a nightly basis. The second half of class would often be spent on sanchin or other kata and we'd sometimes be given individual corrections and then sent to practice on our own. When we'd have time we'd also do some tanren (conditioning), sparring, bunkai (applications) or kakie waza (pushing hands and free techniques), and a few of us would stay back after class to do some extra junbi undo or to work on problem techniques.
Rather than teaching something new every class, training in the honbu dojo seems to have retained much of the traditional approach adopted back in the days of the karate kenkyu club (1926). There is a real emphasis on strong basics, repetition and routine. And, while this kind of training might be considered less interesting or exciting than what's offered in other clubs, as I see it, the traditional approach does offer a few advantages:
1) Repetition of basic techniques (when done well) makes for solid foundations and whole body conditioning. If practiced daily these techniques become ingrained and help form the basis of the “goju-ryu” body.
2) The same routines become habit forming and teach students how to train on their own. By minimising indecision and gaps due to “thinking” or “decision time” between activities, it becomes easy to work through entire sequences of techniques, drills and corrections in individual training.
3) Daily repetition of the same basic techniques also teaches discipline and etiquette and makes for good “spirit” training. When we’re not learning anything ‘new’, even more concentration is required to stay present, focused and to continue working on improving each rep.
At times progress can seem slow when repetition is one of your main teachers, but personally I’ve gotten a lot out of this traditional approach to training. If nothing else, it’s really taught me how to be more disciplined in my independent sessions – an important lesson for someone who’s easily distracted and would often end up just working on the "fun stuff". The problem there being, the stuff we enjoy is usually the stuff we’re best at and the things that actually need the least work.
Obviously it’s still important to have time to research, explore and play and some might argue that there isn’t enough of this in traditional training. I’m sure there are drawbacks to this approach too as there are with any system but I’d be interested in hearing people’s views on the topic. How does traditional training compare to more modern, progressive methods?