Ross Kelson also wrote about this practice.
What an incredible experience. It was a wonderful opportunity to be able to participate in a practice led by Ohshima Sensei. At 11 AM on Sunday, April 7, 2002, right before practice began, Mr. Ohshima went down the line to make sure that everybody was in order by seniority. He then wanted to see how many special trainings we’d made. He would call out “10 special trainings….9 special trainings….etc.” and we would acknowledge our number by raising our hands. He then stressed to us how important special training is to our practice.
Right before Mokuso, Mr. Ohshima instructed us on exactly how we should sit. He said that we should sit in Mokuso as if there was a pole going through the top of our head down our backs to the floor. I have heard some of our seniors say this before, and I think that I finally realized what this should feel like. Maybe. Then he had us practice breathing from the tanden while seated in Mokuso. He emphasized that the person next to you should not be able to hear you breath and your shoulders should not move at all.
After Mokuso, Mr. Ohshima had us stand up and do some stretching. During the stretching he had us wind our arms from the back to the front and stopping with our arms outstretched right in front of our shoulders. They should then be left like this for about a minute or so, then repeat. This exercise was to give us the feeling of rounded shoulders. During this exercise our shoulder blades should not stick out at all in our backs. If your shoulder blades stick out, then you have to be using power in the upper body. He went around to check and sure enough, my shoulder blades were sticking out and I didn’t even realize it. After he pointed this out to me, I started to better understand what the feeling of rounded shoulders should be. That was a great exercise and I have done it quite a few times since last Sunday. He then had us wind our shoulders the opposite way, from the front through the back and stopping in the same place, right in front of your shoulders. It definitely made me more aware of my shoulders when I switched directions. I had to get the feeling of rounded shoulders all over again.
Next, Mr. Ohshima had us do about a hundred yokogeri-keage. This is a rough estimate. It may have been a few more or less, but it was around 100. While we did these he stressed everything that our seniors stress for this kick; we need to keep our shoulders straight, we should not make this a high kick, and we need to get our knees up. I am sure that there were a few more points, but these are all that I recall. Then he had us do a few more where we jumped in and did the yokogeri-keage. We were supposed to concentrate on kicking right when we jumped in.
After warming up with these kicks we did a few Bassai. We probably did about 5. Then Mr. Ohshima called us to the center and demonstrated a few things to show us how important it is not to use power in the upper body. He demonstrated by using a familiar trick, first pushing his hand down with power to push down somebody’s outstretched hand and then just letting his hand fall with gravity to push the hand down. Of course when he did not use power he had better results. He then stressed that he wanted everybody to gain confidence. Humans have a cowardly nature. With confidence we can overcome this nature and accomplish much more. He also focused on the importance of diet and exercise.
Next he opened up a forum for us to ask any questions that we have about Bassai. There were many, many questions. The question that I remember most vividly was what the exact feeling is with the hands during moves 18 and 19. This is just before the fumikomi/kiai when you “pass the right arm under the left arm, and extend it forward in a right arm block.” In this block, your right arm is grabbing somebody’s arm and the left comes down and grabs the wrist and you have control of the arm to come right away with your fumikomi. After this we did about five more Bassai so that we could focus on the new corrections and feelings that we had just learned.
Next he lined us up for ippon gumite. The feeling in this was to stay in place and just twist our hips to avoid the punch so that the attacker’s punch just grazed our stomachs. We did this against 3 opponents, then we did sanbon gumite and the feeling was the same. We were only supposed to move our hips away from the punch with no blocks. Only this time we could use tai-sabaki. We did this against four opponents. He then called us into the middle again to emphasize the lesson of these exercises, which was to keep a close feeling to the opponent. He really wanted us to leave with the idea that we need to stay in with strong feeling when we kumite. This should always be the feeling. We should stay in close with a very strong feeling. Doing this would make it more difficult for the attacker to penetrate us. He told us that if we always keep a strong feeling, then any opponent on the streets would be able to sense this and would be more likely to not even want to try to cause trouble. He has tried this many times on the streets and one night he saw a drunk man walking by and he wanted to see if he could impose this feeling on somebody who was so out of it. He looked at the man with a strong feeling and the man reacted and made sure to stay out of his way. So even those who are not within reality can sense when somebody has such a strong feeling.
We then lined up for Mokuso. After this he had the ik-kyus clean the dojo floor, the ni-kyus clean the meditation rooms on the side and the san-kyus clean the front entrance, stairs and sitting area of the dojo. Everybody went to clean right away and we all got to meet other people from dojos all over. Mr. Ohshima invited everybody over to his house for tea afterwards. I only got to stay about twenty minutes because I had to drive to L.A. to catch my flight, but it was wonderful. He said to tell everybody in Kansas City hello and I thanked him for the practice.
I am very thankful and appreciative for this experience. I would like to make the disclaimer that this description does not fully capture how full the practice actually was. I am going by what I wrote down and my memory, which absolutely cannot capture everything that the practice held. I wish that my description did it more justice.
== Rachel Haughenberry, san-kyu, Kansas City Shotokan Karate Club