I know I've not posted for a while so I thought I'd better sort it out! So my returning blog will be based on the question "What is my favourite Asai Kata and why?" This was asked by Simon Bligh Sensei otherwise known to everyone at Seibukan Karate Club as the 'Captain!'
Since becoming part of the JKS I have become accustomed to being taught to think 'outside the box' and develop my Karate to become personal and effective to me. Over the years we (I say we as in Alan Campbell Sensei's club) have practiced many of Asai Shihan's Kata's. My first memories of seeing and experiencing these 'different' Kata's were at the JKS GB's first ever International Seminar and Championships in Crawley, in 2004. Seeing Asai Shihan and the, at the time, up and coming young Makita Sensei teaching these Kata's - designed to be used as training tools to compliment the Shotokan Kata we already have.
Here's a link to a video of Makita Sensei teaching Junro Shodan and Nidan on the course I mentioned previously:
Also, Makita Sensei demonstrates Kakuyoku Nidan on the same course (you can see a very young me in the background!) in the following link:
Me practicing Unsu in Okinawa
It's difficult to decide which Kata is my favourite as there are so many Asai Kata to choose from. It's like asking what is you're Tokui Kata at different stages in you're competitive career. You like to choose the most 'eye-catching' Kata that you hope would impress the judges. BUT it must encompass good solid Kihon techniques! It should definitely not any involve any theatric or non existant movements! At the moment most people know my Tokui Kata is Unsu, which I performed at successfully in May 2011 to win the JKS Ireland Men's Individual Kata. The reason I like Unsu is for the pace of the Kata, you have the slow, controlled parts and the parts that can show off your athleticism (the four tate shuto gyaku zuki's) and obviously the jump is a big 'eye-catcher!'
JKS Ireland Open 2010 - Me performing Unsu
So if I had to choose one Asai Kata in particular I would have to pick Junro Yondan. Many people that have recently joined JKS England have told me how difficult a Kata this is for them to grasp. For me it was the first Kata I remembered..... I say remembered because I was taught all 5 by Alan Sensei (after we were shown them on courses with various instructors like Kagawa, Yamaguchi, Kanayama, Koike, Inada, Scott Sensei's) but Junro Yondan was the first one to stick in my head! I remember going for my Nidan grading in Nottingham in 2006 with Inada Sensei and when it came to Kata I did Nijushiho as my Tokui, then Bassai Dai was selected for me. I was then asked to do Junro Shodan by Inada Sensei... I didn't know it 100%! Inada Sensei then looked to Scott Sensei..... then I exclaimed "But I know Junro Yondan!!!" Inada Sensei looked confused..... with translation he replied how can you know this without knowing the first one??" But I duly performed Junro Yondan and ended up passing my grading to great relief!
So, it's a Junro Yondan is a favourite as it's a Kata that has brought personal success with regards to my Nidan grading. For some reason I really like techniques and movements that require spinning and pivoting so I feel really at ease with this Kata. Below is another link, of Scott Langley Sensei performing Junro Yondan:
I feel that some of the key themes to this Kata are spinning/pivoting and re-use of the same hand. When spinning forward (leading with the chest/open side) it is best to spin on the ball/middle of your foot but when you spin backwards (leading with your back/closed side) it is more effective to spin on the heel of the foot. To me, Junro Yondan feels like a realistic fighting Kata because you aren't just blocking and countering.... There could be a number of blocks before you're able to counter - just like in a real fighting scenario! Also the Kata shows us that we can block pro actively going forward i.e. the first two moves. The Kata also introduces us to Neko Ashi Dachi again, as well as open hand techniques.
The Junro Kata's are like the Heian Kata's - the basis to support development of good technique and understanding of body mechanics. I believe the key to Asai-Ryu Kata is smooth transitions, relaxation and fluidity - so bare this in mind when learning and refining these Kata's.
Keep training hard and enjoy what you do!