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2012 AAKF Spring National Seminar

The AAKF Great Lakes Region was proud to host the 2012 AAKF Spring National Seminar, presented by members of the AAKF Technical Board. The gracious hosts from the Shotokan Karate Association Wisconsin club in Milwaukee, led by club director Dr. Ravi, provided a wonderful venue for the training which took place on April 27, 28, and 29. The big bright gym with a nice clean wooden floor set the stage for fifteen hours of training in the fundamentals of traditional karate as they relate to kata and kumite. The opportunity to meet new and old friends from the region and from all over the country added to the enjoyment of this great training event.

We would like to thank Sensei Robert Fusaro, Chair of the AAKF Technical Board, and the members of the Board Sensei Mahmoud Tabassi, Sensei Alex Tong, Sensei Albert Chea, and Sensei Richard Kageyama for the engaging and informative instruction, which left a deep impression on the seminar participants. Several of the participants have shared their perspective of the event, and it is clear that the lessons learned will stay with us for a long time in our training. An essential part of training for all of us to renew our understanding and appreciation of traditional karate and its connection to Budo as developed and passed on to us by Master Nishiyama and his students.


• Dr. T.P. Ravichandran, M.D, Chief Instructor, Shotokan Karate Association Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI
The AAKF National Spring Seminar took place on April 27th, 28th, and 29th at Mount Mary College campus, Milwaukee, WI. It was the first AAKF National Seminar in the Great Lakes region since the demise of Sensei Hidetaka Nishiyama. Every athlete who participated gave a very positive feedback on their experience, from Mount Mary College campus as the seminar site, parking facilities, and the proximity of campus to their place of stay. The National Seminar started with Sensei Robert Fusaro. His legendary athletic ability was breathtaking, and his teaching was presented in such elegance and simplicity that all kyu and high dan ranks members could follow and benefit. His knowledge to improve our core muscle dynamics was remarkable. It is imperative to keep in mind to constantly practice this understanding of body dynamics on a daily basis. Without his lecture, you may be missing a literacy guide on the foundation muscles involved. By strengthening and conditioning them, it will make a remarkable difference in maintaining body stability during combat.

Sensei Mahmoud Tabbasis session emphasized the ability to promote directional force/power with body stability during transition. Most athletes who are good in kumite defeat themselves by adapting wrong stances and would have problems accelerating forward or sideways during transition, thereby become frustrated by their inability to reach target. His guidance will help us make the necessary changes. Sensei Alex Tong used jiyu ippon kumite drills to review the fundamentals of free sparring, including effective distance (ma-ai) in reference to the opponent, appropriate positioning of guard arms in kamae, and basic strategies to create an opening for attack. Sensei Albert Cheah stressed that weak stances beget weak discipline and form. We went through exercises to better understand how to maintain appropriate stance pressure biases between the front and back leg for various stances, and the control of our center of gravity. Sensei Cheah emphasized that practicing these techniques on a daily basis is key. His flexibility and control is outstanding.

During the self-training sessions both Sensei Tabbasi and Sensei Kageyama constantly noticed our weaknesses and would provide personal instructions to improve our techniques. This approach opens eye and thought process in a new direction. Again dynamic flexibility in combination with keri-waza was detailed by Sensei Kageyama. Finally, the Q&A session offered ample opportunities for everyone to direct questions to the AAKF Technical Board.

My take home message is that karate and self defense cannot be mastered over a brief period of time. Consistent training will help us make the difference that we need to make these critical changes of self-development. Till his last breath Sensei Hidetaka Nishiyama taught and trained all of us.

I thank AAKF Technical Board of Directors. I thank all AAKF members and new members who have made this event successful.

"When precise and accurate reach of the moving target is achieved effortlessly, the real combat begins." Dr. T.P. Ravichandran, M.D, Chief Instructor, Shotokan Karate Association, Wisconsin

• Denise Nacu, Instructor, Enso Karate Club, Chicago, IL
As perhaps many of us have realized at some point, I was reminded - upon participating in the AAKF Spring National Seminar recently - that karate training is never finished. The beauty of karate training, I think, is in experiencing the layers of meaning and complexity that reveal themselves with deeper practice and study. Even those basic stances and punches we first began to practice as white belts, become once again new with guidance from senior instructors. Zenkutsu-dachi, for example, is not merely a matter of bending the front knee and keeping the back leg straight. As our seminar instructors emphasized, it involves a number of components such as floor pressure, compression, and proper alignment. For me, the seminars provided a wonderful opportunity to return to fundamentals and gain valuable insights to integrate into my training and teaching. The technical knowledge was excellent to inform the physical aspects of training, and the experience itself renewed my belief in keeping a humble attitude and a beginner's mind.

We were happy to bring fifteen members of our dojo in Chicago to the three days of training in Milwaukee. Our students enjoyed the chance to learn from the many sensei who presented their lessons and gave us feedback to improve. In addition to the notes scribbled into notebooks between sessions, we came home with some new friendships too. We wish to thank Dr. Ravi for hosting the event, and express our gratitude to the AAKF sensei for their instruction.

• Aditya Medicherla, 5th kyu, Madison Japanese Karate Club, Madison, WI
It was the first time I was attending a National seminar, and being fairly new to Karate I had no idea what to expect. Looking at the instructor roster, I was intimidated by the level of experience that was at the table. I was expecting the agenda to be very advanced and beyond my levels of comprehension. I guess a chance to meet and greet a few members of the national team and watch them actually perform was probably the only attraction that made me participate. However, once I was at the seminar I realized I was wrong. The whole seminar was about basic concepts that karate-ka of all levels could benefit from.

Each day started off with a basic warm up, after which each sensei took turns in addressing us as a group and delivering their perspective on the most basic, nonetheless the most important aspects of karate namely, Form, Body Dynamics, Power and Transition. Day one focused on applying these concepts to Kata, whereas day two was applying these to Kumite. Both days were filled with a variety of individual and partner exercises. These exercises facilitated the understanding of these concepts at an internal level and actually realize how they work externally. My favorite part of the three days was the Q&A session on day two, when the whole group was divided into smaller groups and we were allowed to interact with each sensei. This was a very good opportunity to benefit from others understanding of what was being taught.

After more than twelve grueling hours of training spread over three days, the AAKF Spring National Seminar in Milwaukee gave me a new perspective in training. Prior to the seminar, I always preferred Kumite over Kata. However after the seminar, I realized a balance had to be maintained between the two. Kata allows the practice of basic techniques keeping the aforementioned concepts in mind. It does not involve the anxiety and pressure of Kumite that results in subpar techniques. The more one practices Kata with these concepts in mind, the easier it becomes to apply them in Kumite, resulting in effective techniques under pressure.

Overall, it was a great learning experience. Getting a chance to meet with other karate-ka and gaining from their perspective was priceless. I left with a sense of accomplishment and returned to training with a new found energy and excitement. I consider having such an experience at the beginning of my Karate training highly advantageous and I hope I can effectively inculcate what I learned into my training.

• Celiane Labouret, 4th kyu, Shotokan Karate Association Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI
Friday morning, April 27, 2012, the doors of the gymnasium at Marymount College in Milwaukee opened up for the AAKF Spring Seminar. Dr. Ravi was the coordinator of the seminar; he had invited the sensei and taken care of all the necessary logistics.

When the seminar started, the scene was impressive: over fifty participants, mostly black belts and a few colored belts, bowing before five sensei.

The first day of the three days seminar was devoted to kata. One sensei after the other taught the students. Although each sensei had their own style of explaining stances and moves, all of them focused on the essential fundamentals of karate. One sensei after the other, in their own words emphasized the importance of a good basic stance: aligning the hips, squeezing the inner thigh muscles, lowering ones stance, connecting to the ground from the heel up, practicing compressing ones breathing in the tanden. After the theory, came the practice: time after time, a student stood in front of the sensei; the sensei gently pushed him; very few students were able to keep their stance. A second, a third chance was given to them and slowly, the students learned to find a way to have a truly strong stance. I felt that I could now practice with confidence my stance knowing what to watch for such as connection to the ground, proper breathing.