Years ago, at a drinking party in Japan, I finally
worked up enough nerve to pose a question that
I was afraid would sound stupid. But it was
something that had bugged me for a long time. Why do
we have the separate basic exercises Kihon Dosa 1
and Kihon Dosa 2?
These are the beginner punching and blocking exercises,
where you do oi-zuki going forward and then block walking
backwards. In the first set, the only block you do
is a slow soto-uke. In the second, you do the other
three basic blocks.
What is so important about soto-uke
that it is singled out this way?
I asked my question of Sakamoto-Sensei, who sat beside
me, matching me sake cup for cup. He nodded his head
and said simply, "Centreline
According to Sakamoto-Sensei, the correct
finishing positon for soto-uke is the centre of
the body, not off to the side.
I nodded my head as if I understood and took my
next sip of sake, none the wiser.
Since then, I often thought about the remark and pondered
the sense of splitting up the blocks in two exercises.
Over time I began to teach beginners in my dojo the four
blocks in a single set (high punch forward, jodan-uke
back, middle punch/uchi-uke, middle punch/soto-uke and
shiko-zuki/gedan-barai). But I was always nagged by doubt
that I had missed something by not sticking to the original
The matter came up again as we were producing the illustrations for
the new Ryusei kyu belt manual. As sets of images
were completed, I e-mailed them to Japan for Sakamoto-Sensei's
review. For Kihon Dosa 1, he returned the correction
seen above. Our illustration showed the
left soto-uke with a finishing position
in the upper left quadrant of the body.
Sakamoto-Sensei's photo showed his soto-uke in the dead
centre of his body, with a line drawn through the middle
of the picture, so I would get the point.
Ah, centerline training . . .