Smiley’s Sandan Course

It was a privilege to take part in smiley’s Sandan grading, where he had to teach a course to the association on an aspect of karate that we might sometimes over look, and so the course enables us to learn train and drill this for two hours.

I was impressed with the warmup, to most it might of been just kihon ido (moving basics) but it completely warmup up the body, preparing us for training without causing injury. What was most impressive of it was that it lead straight into what he wanted to teach, the turn.

A seemingly simple drill to turn the opposite direction and to be prepared to defend to yourself from attack from behind. Smiley noticed that many ranging from high grades to low grades often rush this to try to keep in time with everyone else and therefore we often don’t properly cover, block and strike on the turn.

So he had us slow it down take our time, the cover starts just before you start the turn, you end up covering your head and have time to block and strike with plenty of time to do everything and actually to be able to generate power from the corkscrew like action of the turn going into your stance be it zenkutsu dachi or sanchin dachi. By taking our time and not rushing our techniques we had time to fit everything into the turn, covering just before we pivot allows us to let everything flow together.

Smiley later analysed why we turn initially with the current front foot and not the current back foot, the first gives you time to react to a punch to your head and takes you off their center line putting you in a stronger position, the latter forces you to react Instantly, sometimes forces you to move your head out of the way maybe by moving your body depending on the effect of your deflect and blocking but with put you on equal footing with your attacker, which is a disadvantage as you are effectively turning into their attacks.

We drilled this with a partner holding out his fist, then he held a pad with the other arm so we could practice the turn and react into a punch, drilling in that instant reaction of seeing danger in the corner of your eye and reacting immediately. This reaction gave a new meaning to the turn and help visualise that we should have the mindset of reacting to the turn as if someone was about to attack us from behind.

We returned to kihon ido and the whole lineup looked and felt better, we were smoother and the turn itself felt very reactive which transformed everyone’s kihon ido. Moving basics suddenly felt like they made more sense, an new element was added to them.

We then got into.groups of three and trained this reaction with the first kata (geksai dai ichi) bunkai, but this time instead of just doing  bunkai, we had to react as soon as we finished off the previous bunkai as the strike would be coming when we were turned away from the second attacker.

After the excitement of the reactive bunkai we again returned to kihon ido, this time as well as turning around he would ask us to turn 90 degrees one way or another.

Smiley got us to walk around and at random we could grab someone’s shoulder or someone could grav our shoulder and we would have to react Instantly turning  correctly

We got split into groups again, and returned to kihon ido several times as his goal was to prompt us into turning into an attacker in an advantage (stronger line of attack, keeping your head clear of his fists). We were split into groups of five, depending on the angle the call was made would depend if we found it easy or hard, some people prefer one side to another. I found using the drill helped me generate power and react much quicker than I perhaps would normally do.

We again returned to kihon ido, and now I could feel the connection between my guard, stance and strikes everything was flowing in harmony.

Then he got us to do the grab the shoulder, from back or side and we would have to react into an instantaneous spar for.several moments before the next. It was exciting to feel as my stance work connected with my strikes and I was therefore more effective, I could see it happening throughout the whole group.

Smiley gave one of the most well taught lessons ever, from start to finish everything fitted together like a jigsaw puzzle, turns something that seems simple maybe even boring and an area that annoyed it’s lack of cohesion in alot of gradings not only getting fine tuned but to bring the karate spirit into, see how it transcends through to all aspects of karate, making us better at deflecting, power generation, reacting. The list could go on.

The Shihan’s speech at the end was very insightful, they didn’t necessarily agree with everything smiley went on about, but found it very thought provoking where they had to go and discuss and think about it to themselves several times in the grading. They were proud of him and so were we.

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