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Block the Line
 

 

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 training."


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 forms.

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 . . .
 

 


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