Sunday, March 30, 2014

First belt test - still so much to learn

Today was a test to move up the ladder towards our blackbelts called shokyushinsa 昇級審査 in Japanese. It was the first time for both Aspen and I and we only had a small idea of what to expect.

It was held in a small community center with a half-size gym. There was no locker room or changing room so Aspen and I got into our karate gi using the space behind the gym stage. We got there a little early and when we came out after changing, the other members of our club were there too.

Some tables where set up in front of the gym for the judges.  There were four judges and one .... master judge??  Our main sensei, Muto-sensei was the shinpanin-cho. The room was partitioned off into two sections with a fence made from small hurdle sized movable partitions(?).  All of the people who were getting tested that day were called out by name and lined up by belt, white belts first, on the side of the partition facing the stage in front of which the judges sat.  The black belts and others who were not testing that day where on the other side of the partition getting instruction from Iida-sensei(?) who is apparently a world champion athlete who brought a large cup (trophy) home from Great Britain.  

First we were tested on Kihon, then Kumite, and finally Kata.


For each we were called out two or three at a time.  There was a man standing to the side of the judges holding a piece of paper who called out to us what we were supposed to do.  This is what we did:
  1. Gedan barai from Zenkutsu dachi  (I stepped back with my right leg from the start instead of stepping forward with my left)
  2. Ageuke 
  3. Sotouke
  4. Shutouke from Kokutsudachi 
  5. Maegeri from Zenkutsu dachi  
  6. Yokogeri from Kiba dachi
  7. (am I missing one?)
Unless I am reading the kanji wrong, I thought we were going to have to do yokokeage,  however we were told to do yokogeri.  Is there a difference?  I think there is.  How am I supposed to kick with yokogeri? I think I am supposed to kick with the edge of my foot, not the heel, when doing yokogeri, but I'm not sure. Also, as I had feared, it worked out so that I had to do yokogeri with my bad left leg.    

I had a hard time catching what the man was saying.  I mean, I could not hear him very well.  I'm not sure if this is because I just couldn't hear him very well or if it was because it was in Japanese and I wasn't accustomed to his voice.

I was marked down (減点)for:

  1. kiai - must have needed to be more verbal when doing kihon.  Mental note: review Takahashi Yoko DVD.  Probably didn't do kia on the last movement.  
  2. kokutsudachi - rear stance, I know I need to work on this.  
  3. kibadachi - horse stance, same as kokutsudachi
  4. waki no shime - ??? Do I need to keep my elbows in closer to my sides?
  5. koshi no antei - the stability of my hips/lower back??
  6. snap 
  7. sokuto - knife foot, apparently as a part of yokogeri
  8. ashikubi no shime - This might have something to do with the angle of your feet when standing in kiba dachi or zenkutsu dachi. I found a mention of it on someone's online diary.  He says: "「基本で締まった立ち方ができてこそ、組手で崩して構えても瞬時に締まる 。組手の構えは基本ができていることが前提。したがって、基本と形の立ち方は締まっていないといけない」 との師範のお言葉。 騎馬立の足首の内側への締めは、股間を即座に防御する体勢である。前屈立の前足と 後足を平行にするのも同じ。私は最近なってようやく三戦立や猫足立の意味が理解できるようになってきた。 どちらの立ち方も、最初から股間を防御するように内股を締めている。股間を含めた身体の中心軸、 すなわち正中線を守るのがどんな武道でも基本である。"
  9. Chikara zuyosa - power.  I needed to do it more powerfully.
  10. Unsoku - refers to how you move or "carry" your feet as you do the drills and kata.  
  11. Mokuhyo no seikakusa - accuracy of your punches and kicks. chin / solar plexus??


For kumite, again, we were called out two or three at a time. Luckily I was paired with one of my own club members who was my height.  We did sanbon yakusoku kumite.  There were three sets of  red and blue lines of tape on the floor.  One of us stood behind red and the other behind blue.  Red attacked first and blue defended and then we switched.  We were testing for our first belts so we only did jodan oitsuki (junzuki?) / age uke, chudan oitsuki / soto uke.

I was marked down for:

  1. reigi - respect/bowing??
  2. shisei - posture
  3. chakugan - eye contact ??
  4. chikarazuyosa - Power
  5. Hikite - drawing / pulling back / back arm
  6. Seikaku na uke - accurate blocking
  7. Kime - ?? finishing the punch? snap?
  8. Ashikubi no shime??? - what the hell?  No kicks done in our kumite. What is this all about?
I have many questions and much to learn.


Again, for kata we were called out in twos or threes to do the kata.  For kihon and kumite we were lined up so that we were facing one of the walls and moved across the room in front of the judges.  For kata, we were lined up across the room facing the judges.  Since this was our first test we had to do Heian Shodan.  I made not mistakes that I am aware of but I still have much to work on to improve my kata.  Aspen did fairly well but made three mistakes that I noticed.  One of his gedan barai looked the same as a chokuzuki and on the last set of shutouke he turned around in the wrong direction and did them with the opposite hands.  

I was marked down for:

  1. shisei - posture
  2. kiai - was my kiai not done with enough spirit?
  3. karada no shinshuku - ???
  4. waza no kankyu? 緩急 slowness / speed. Some moves are meant to be done quickly, some slowly. 
  5. seikakusa - accuracy
  6. hikite - your back arm/hand, the one you pull back when you strike or block with the other
  7. hikiashi - your back leg.  This is the first time I have heard mention of hikiashi.  I'll have to learn about this concept. 


The black belts who were there that day performed enbu after the testing was done.  Enbu, I guess, without looking it up, would probably be translated as exhibition.  They came out one by one and performed a kata.  As each one came out, Muto-sensei introduced the student.  We got so see many kata we have never seen and some we have never even heard of before.  


I'm not exactly sure what they called this but it was dantai something, or group kata.  They were told to perform it just as if it were a tournament.  Three people came out at once and stood in an inverted V formation.  One person was the leader and speaker for the group.  They all performed the same kata at the same time.  The object is to be synchronous with one another.  Muto-sensei said that being in sync is the most important thing.  Even if you do the kata wrong, as long as you all do it wrong in exactly the same way in sync with one another, then it is good.  


We got the results from the test after that.  I didn't realize that we could get the results right away.  We got the judging form back and if you had a borrowed belt from the club (Shibukan) it was exchanged for a new belt of a different color if you passed.  If you didn't pass, I'm assuming you just got your judging sheet back. Aspen, despite all of his quirks and mistakes was still promoted to 11-kyu and given a yellow belt.  I, despite all of MY quirks and mistakes, was promoted from mukyu (white belt) to 8-kyu and given a light-blue belt.   

Here are the judging sheets. If I am reading these correctly, the check marks show the things we were marked down for.  It looks like a perfect score would be 52 points.