On Saturday 10th November, a respectable number of CFTS students and a few Shotokai guests met at the usual course venue in Kempston for another seminar to be taken by Minh Chung Sensei of Shotokai. He has for many years studied Shotokai under the tutelage of Harada Sensei. Harada Sensei, along with Kanazawa Soke, is one of only a small handful of karate-ka still alive taught by Funakoshi Gichin.
It really was a unique opportunity for Shotokan students to directly experience instruction in Shotokai. Due to past differences and politics Shotokan and Shotokai karate-ka do not mix or train together. We do not know of any other students of the two styles sharing training amicably in any dojo anywhere.
The afternoon was opened by Renshi Kidby re-introducing Minh Chung Sensei. Renshi explained that it was to be an afternoon exploring Shotokai’s version of Heian Godan as a method of direct comparison with Shotokan’s version and also with the Wado-Ryu Pinan Godan which we studied earlier in the year with Robert Howells Sensei. Sensei Chung went on to explain that it was Itosu Sensei (one of Funakoshi’s instructors) who had devised all the Heians taking them from Kankudai (known then as Kushanku) to make the first years of karate easier for younger and new students. The purpose of the course was not only to train in another version of a kata we are comfortable with, but to look at and practice a different take on bunkai, and another way of delivering power.
Before the instruction and training began the course delegates watched a simultaneous performance of both versions of Heian Godan and the Pinan version (by Senseis Chung, McClagish and Kidby). This clearly showed the many differences between the three methods and the similarities too.
Slowly and methodically the first half of the kata was broken down and practiced moving on to simple but effective bunkai. Once students had become more confident Sensei took us on to the second half of the kata and finally on to its’ bunkai.
Around 16:00 we paused for a short, much needed, break. The second half of the course began with distancing training moving backwards and forwards staying in synch with your partner, never allowing them to get away but never allowing them to get close enough to harm you.
The remainder of the afternoon was taken up repeating some of the bunkai of Heian Godan, in a more fluid way, more akin to our Jyu-ippon kumite. As always the time to finish arrived too soon. As usual we concluded with group photos and a presentation of a course certificate.
Conclusion? In my mind Shotokan and Wado-ryu are similar in the way they deliver power, more obviously dynamic than Shotokai. The style of Shotokai is more subtle in the way the power is delivered, in a less obvious way. It still requires timing, correct stances and the use of hips to generate the desired power to execute a technique. Similarities of Shotokan and Shotokai is that the kata of both styles, and length of stances, are virtually the same although some moves do differ. One big difference is that there are no Kiai in Shotokai. Wado-ryu is more similar to Shotokan in the way it generates power but its’ stances are much shorter and the Pinan kata are very different to the Heians. Finally, as I said at the beginning there is no right nor wrong, just different but all three styles are very closely linked through lineage and history. They all share the same ultimate goals of self-defence, fitness, self-discipline, moral code and journey to enlightenment.
Thanks must go to Minh Chung Sensei for another enjoyable course, to his fellow students of Shotokai. Many thanks must also go to Harada sensei for giving his blessing and kind permission for allowing us to train together.