Yuki Nocilla belongs to the highly talented karatekas of her generation. Just last weekend, she proved again her class and won the German Championships. We take this as an occasion to portray Yuki Nocilla and to explain to you why we will see more of her in the future. By Dr. Christian Tribowski
Yuki Nocilla does not create a lot of sensation when she enters the pool. Humbleness, coolness, and calmness seem to be her nature. However, right after hajime she “floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee” (Muhammad Ali). “Her fighting style is very efficient and merciless”, says Keigo Shimizu, member of the advisory board of The Shotokan Times and former sensei of Yuki Nocilla.
Yuki Nocilla: Strong Kihon in Malta as Foundation
How efficient she fights became obvious last weekend during the German JKA Cup. It took her in sum about 4 minutes to eliminate five opponents and to take the trophy back to Malta. “In the last three years, since she lives and trains in Malta, she has improved a lot. The strict focus on excellent kihon in JKA Malta SKA Dojo has been having a huge positive effect on her movement and fighting intelligence” said her former sensei at the Yamato Dojo Düsseldorf, the city, where she lived from 2012 until 2016.
From Japan to Germany to Malta
Yuki started her training at her high school in Japan by the age of 16. A year later, she could already win the North Japanese Championships and also became champion of the Miyagi prefecture. Both became the first milestones in an excellent competitive career. During that time she trained 7 days per week at her high school.
However, Yuki also wanted to broaden her horizon and to live abroad. She made this decision after Northern Japan was hit by an earthquake and right after that by an tsunami in 2011. With 18 she moved the Düsseldorf, the Japanese capital of Germany. While she was working in a Sushi restaurant during the day, she started training karate again at night with Keigo Shimizu. He saw her unprecedented talent immediately and fostered her development for the next three years.
Yuki Nocilla Defeats European Champion
During that time, Yuki achieved one of her biggest successes: The victory at the German JKA Championships 2015. In the finals, she defeated Michaela Rein from Munich, who became European Champion two years earlier. In the same year, the mayor invited her together with other top-athletes from Düsseldorf, who became World-, European or German champions the same year, to the city hall for a joint celebration.
Strong Footwork and Consequent Execution
Yukis fighting style combines an excellent footwork with a strong focus on Ikken Hissatsu. With a height of around 1,65 meters Yuki measures often smaller than her European opponents. A high agility through a dynamic footwork is, therefore, the key to her success. In addition, her disadvantage in height makes it necessary to fight forcefully. She must push for the target merciless, especially when her opponents are taller. Because counter attacks and retaliation punches become even more difficult to handle for smaller fighters.
Malta as Yuki Nocilla´s Homebase
Today, Yuki lives and trains in Malta. She moved to the peninsula three years ago in order to study English and because the climate is better in the Mediterranean than in Germany. But she found more on Malta than good weather and the language of the Queen. She trains in the JKA Malta SKA as many times as possible. The Dojo maintains a very high skill level due to Edward Aquilina Sensei, who is chief instructor of SKA.
Together with Yuki three other competitors from Malta started in Germany last weekend. All of them made it to the podium and finished among the top three in their group. Therefore, Keigo Shimizu is sure: “We will see and hear more about Yuki Nocilla in the future.”
This prediction maybe will become a reality. Because the chances are high that Yuki will enjoy Malta and training with JKA Malta SKA a little bit longer. Then beside the Dojo she also found the most important thing on the island: a loving husband.
The 2nd Yamato Cup took place in Düsseldorf, Germany, on last Sunday. It was an event full of emotions, ups and downs, comebacks, victories, and experiences. The head of the organizing committee and chairman of The Shotokan Times, Thomas Prediger was very happy with the tournament. “Since last year, the number of starters has risen of about 50 percent. But we still maintained a welcoming and relaxed atmosphere. So everybody had a great time with a lot of experiences and fun. Next year, the 3rd Yamato Cup will be even bigger. And we will work even harder so that everybody has a good time in Düsseldorf.” The Yamato Cup was jointly organized by the Dojo Yamato, Düsseldorf, and the SC Taisho, Siegburg.
Yamato Cup: Bigger and International
150 starter from 16 dojos met to compete for the individual, team, and the overall victory. The tournament was open for children and teenager from age 6 to 17. All of them fought in two pools about the victory. Most excitingly, a dutch team, the Centrum Weng, from Beek in the Netherlands took part in the competition. Therefore, the 2nd Yamato Cup became unintentionally but very appreciated an international tournament.
The competition categories comprised:
Individual kumite: Kihon ippon, jiyu ippon, and shiai (from age 14 and older)
Team kumite: Shiai
Offering a Space for Mental, Spiritual, and Physical Growth
The guiding idea behind the Yamato Cup described Thomas Prediger as follows: “We want to bring children and teenager from different associations and dojos together so that they can compete with each other. The aim lies not on winning. But we focus on mental, spiritual, and physical growth. We want to give them a secure and structured space. Within this space they can make challenging experiences and we support and guide them on their way.”
Fairness as Central Aim of the Yamato Cup
In opposite to other tournaments the Yamato Cup brought karateka and dojos from different associations together. “The tournament is open to everybody, who practices Shotokan”, said Thomas Prediger. To guaranty fairness the organizers chose a sophisticated approach. Instead of favoring a system of rules from one of the attending associations, all starters had to comply and were judged according JKA Japan rules. That created a level playing field for all children and teenager. Because all had to prepare for this rules in particular.
In addition, the referee body consisted of 15 referees from a variety of dojos and associations. The attending dojos were invited upfront to send referees to the tournament. As head of the referee body the organizers could also win Jörg Reuß from the Shotokan Karate Dojo Tsunami in Cologne, Germany. During his competitive career Jörg gained huge international experience. He won the a gold medal at the World Games in 1989, became 2nd at the JKA World Championships, and won several European Championship titels. After this active career he also became an international referee for the JKA.
Moreover, every referee had to take part in one of the four preparation seminars. These seminars took place in the weeks prior to the Yamato Cup. There all referees learnt the system of rules for the event and how to conduct the competitions.
Starters and Dojos were Happy
Dojos and karateka alike expressed their gratitude and how much they enjoyed the Yamato Cup. All of them want to come back and look forward to the 3rd Yamato Cup in 2020.
Overall Winner: Centrum Weng
The overall victory went to the Centrum Weng from the Netherlands. With highly engaged and passionate fights the dutch team won the most medals throughout the whole competition. Therefore, the Centrum Weng took the challenge cup back home. Tamara Wewengkang, head coach of the team, was more then happy and proud when Thomas Prediger handed her the Cup. However, the other dojos have the chance to win the trophy on the next Yamato Cup in 2020. After the Cup means therefore before the Cup.
We all admire Karate Instructors like Koichiro Okuma. Their excellent technique, fighting spirit, and charisma give them a superhuman aura. But who are Karate Instructors? How much do they train? Do they have other jobs beside Karate? How does a regular day in the life of a Karate Instructor look like? The Shotokan Times had the chance to interview one of the most renowned and world-wide known JKA Instructors: Koichiro Okuma. We talked with him about his morning routine, the long days of traveling, and his most favorite hobby. Learn more about the life of a Karate Instructor. By Dr. Christian Tribowski
Today, we would like to talk about your daily life as an JKA instructor, Okuma Sensei. May we start at the beginning: What do you do when you start your day?
Koichiro Okuma: I usually wake up at 5 am. In bed, I already begin with my preparation. I stretch and twist my body. I do little Mae Geris and relax my shoulders. After that, I go jogging.
kilometers do you run?
Koichiro Okuma: Not so many. My running starts more like walking into the park. That is not so hard. Then, I do intervals of 300 meters – fast, slow, fast, slow. I always speed up a little bit from interval to interval. In the end, that sums up to round about 3 kilometers. It is just a way for me to start the day, to wake up, and fix my body. It has no specific training purpose.
After that, I walk home. Back home, I have breakfast and drive to the JKA headquarter.
How long does it take you to go to the headquarter?
Koichiro Okuma: It is only 20 kilometers to the headquarter. We live a little bit outside of Tokyo. But you know, the heavy traffic in Japan. So, that is why it takes me one hour and a half by car. However, I do not want to take the subway (laughs). It is just too crowded with too many people.
Arriving at the JKA Headquarter
you arrive at the headquarter and what do you do then?
Koichiro Okuma: I arrive at 8:30 am. I open the headquarter because I am usually the first to arrive. Immediately after that, I start beating the Makiwara. Now, we have the hot season in Japan. Usually I beat the Makiwara 5.000 times every morning. 1.000 Ura-Ken, 3.000 Choku-Zuki in Kiba-Dachi, and 1.000 Gyaku-Zuki in Zenkutsu-Dachi. That is my Makiwara training.
said, you do 5.000 punches in the summer. How many do you do in the winter?
Koichiro Okuma: More than 10.000 every day. Because in Japan, the summer season is very hot and wet with a high level of humidity. Even doing only 5.000 Zukis causes me to sweat a lot. I have also a big event every day, where I must attend: the instructor training. Therefore, I have to stay energetic and cannot exhaust myself.
But between punching the Makiwara I also do snap routines for Mae Geri. I do 200 to 300 repetitions. Of course, not continuously. I always do sets of ten and squeeze them between the Makiwara punches. Because I have a knee problem. When I stay to long in one stance during the Makiwara routine, for instance, Zenkutsu-Dachi, my knee becomes very stiff.
Right after the Makiwara training, I also punch the heavy bag and do some Kata training. Some days, I practice Tekki Shodan, Nidan, and Sandan. On other days, I do the 15 mandatory basic Katas. Or I practice all Katas with a Dai and a Sho version like Gojushiho Dai and Gojushiho Sho. I decide about the Katas on a daily basis. I do not have a fixed routine.
Finally, I do a Kata with a stick sometimes. My master, Sensei Tatsuya Naka, gave me some instructions about stick fighting. That is why I also practice the Kata Shushi No Kon. Sometimes I also add a little bit of Kumite movements into my routine.
In sum, my whole morning routine, including the Makiwara and everything, takes 90 minutes.
10 am: Office Begins
What do you do after that?
Koichiro Okuma: Office starts at 10 am. I start to beat the Makiwara at 8:30 am. Right after my workout, I have to be in the office. The instructor training starts at 11 am. Before the instructor training, I need to finish some work. Thus, I need to go downstairs to the office.
I am in charge for the Department of International Affairs of the JKA. That is why I need to check emails and give instructions to the staff members. I have to advise them how to solve problems and how to execute tasks.
also have to take part in meetings etc.?
Koichiro Okuma: Yes, of course every now and then. If we hold a big event like a big tournament, I will take part in the planning. For instance, this year we are going to organize the Asia tournament. Therefore, I have to gather all the lists and we need to create a tournament program. We have to setup a schedule. But this goes not only for the tournaments. We have to come up with a schedule for the Gasshuku, too. So, we must create a system to execute these events. Of course, I cannot do all that by myself. That is why I give the orders to my employees in the department. One clerk and one young instructor support me with all that.
11 am, the instructor training start, right?
Koichiro Okuma: Yes! It takes between one and one and half hours. If it is shorter, then it will be even more intensive.
Ueki Sensei teaches the class sometimes. Sometimes, Imamura Sensei, Kobayashi Sensei, or Taniyama Sensei do it. They become appointed by the Chief Instructor.
All the instructors, who are in Tokyo at that time, must take part in the training. The only reason for not joining the training is, if somebody is abroad. So, we train together every day. On average we are 15 to 20 people.
The training, by the way, is very hard. Very tough. Sometimes we only do Kihon, Kata or Kumite but it is always very tough.
Giving Karate Lessons
What do you do afterwards? It must be lunch time then, right?
Koichiro Okuma: After the instructor training, I take a shower, have lunch, and sometimes I take a nap. Then, I go back to the office.
At 3:30 pm I leave the headquarter to teach at Dokkyo University Karate Club, my alma mater, or at my own Dojo. My week goes like that: On Monday, I go to my University Dojo. On Tuesday, I teach in the headquarter. Wednesday, I teach at my Dojo in Tokyo. On Thursday, I am again in the University and on Friday I teach in my Dojo. Saturdays and Sundays are off. But sometimes I go to the University or I must judge at a tournament.
When do you get back home on a regular day?
Koichiro Okuma: May be around 10 pm after the instructions. After the University, I will be at home at 8:30 pm. If I give training at my Dojo in Tokyo, I will be at home at 10 pm. Then, I have dinner and chat with my wife. And at 5 am I wake up again.
But you also
travel abroad a lot during the year, right? How many days do you travel?
Koichiro Okuma: Usually, more than 100 days per year. For instance, I was in Miami in January, in Greece in April, now Germany, right after that Morocco, Spain, and Belgium. Next month, I will be in Czech Republic. In August, the Asia tournament will take place in Thailand. From end of September to the beginning of October, I will be in South-Africa. In November, I will be on Mauritius and the Indian Ocean Islands. At the end of November, I will be in the Netherlands, too. After a short break in Japan, I will immediately fly to Mexico in November. That is the travel schedule for this year.
have a golden frequent traveler card?
Koichiro Okuma: Maybe I will get it this year. But sometimes I get very cheap tickets. Thus, I cannot collect a lot of mileage. But this year, I will get the star alliance golden card! (smiles)
His Most Horrible Trip
As I can
imagine the traveling is very exhaustive, right?
Koichiro Okuma: Yes! But I have a very funny story about my most horrible trip. 5 years ago, I had to travel around the globe. I had to travel to Norway first, then to Kenya and South Africa and finally Australia in one trip. So, I requested a world-tour ticket. Because they are cheaper than the single tickets. But the problem was that the ticket itinerary did not send me directly from Johannesburg to Australia. Instead, I was supposed to go first to John F. Kennedy Airport, New York. That took 15 hours from Johannesburg. Then, I had 3 hours transit until I had to catch a flight to Los Angeles. The flight was 6 hours from NYC to LA. But I had 11 transit in LA.
Look, my destination was Melbourne. Instead of going to Melbourne directly I also had a stop-over in Sydney. However, the flight from LA to Sydney was the most terrible one. I was seated in the last row. Left and right of me, were two very massive guys chatting and eating chips. I was squeezed between them. In order to survive this, I did the whole flight the beginning of Tekki Shodan. (laughs) That was my worst flight ever. In the end, it took me 2 days to go from South-Africa to Australia.
I can imagine that it is very difficult to maintain your daily schedule under such circumstances. What do you do in order to keep it at least a little bit?
Koichiro Okuma: Eventually, it is impossible. When I travel too much and start the Makiwara training again at home, my fists have become week in the meantime. Therefore, I cannot execute 5.000 punches at the Makiwara. Because of that I like to use a portable Makiwara. Either I punch the knuckles of both hands together or I use a stone. I have a small flat stone that I carry with me. I hold it in my palm while doing punches. Maybe I should get a Lava stone in the future! (laughs)
Fishing for Recreation
I guess that even an internationally renowned JKA instructor has spare time every now and then. What do you do then?
Koichiro Okuma: If I do not have any appointments, I will go fishing! (smile) My hobby is fishing. I am crazy about fishing. I have a small inflatable boot with a small engine. Of course, I will stay at the shore-line. I do not go very far out to the ocean. But I very enjoy to be on the ocean.
I haven caught many fish so far. However, not the big fishes. I focus on Aji (Japanese horse mackerel), as we call the fish in Japan. Aji means “taste” in Japanese and the fish tastes very good. The fish is not that big – maximum 30 centimeters. That is why I use a very sensitive line and fish with a rod. All fish, I catch, I put into a cooling box with ice and seawater. I do not touch it. I use special equipment and put it right into the box. So, then the fish stays very fresh.
Sometimes, I prepare the fish for myself and my family. I turn it into Sashimi. If I catch a lot, I give them to my mother in law or University friends.
We wish you to catch many more fish in the future. Thank you very much for the interview, Koichiro Okuma Sensei!
The Shotokan Times is happy to announce that Sensei Thomas Prediger, 5th Dan, has joined its Advisory Board.
Practicing Shotokan Karate since 1981, Thomas has been making a remarkable carrier as a competitor and trainer. For many years, he was member of the German national Kumite team. Among his many victories is the win of the Shotokan World-Cup.
Since 1990 he has been teaching Karate to children, youth, and adult classes. Between 1990 and 2015 he was head coach of the Karate association of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. In this position he was also consultant for competitive sports and trainer education. His students won several titles on the national and international level.
Today, he is manager and head coach at the Sportcenter Taisho in Siegburg, Germany. Every Sunday, he holds an open Kumite training session in Düsseldorf, Germany, called: Kumite Boot Camp.
“I am very happy to join the Advisory Board of The Shotokan Times. The platform offers plenty opportunities for exchange and discourse among Shotokan Karateka on a global scale. I see a bright future for The Shotokan Times. An high quality online media was overdue in Shotokan Karate”, says Thomas Prediger. He will also become chair of the Advisory Board. In the near future, the board will be extended with further experts in the field of Shotokan Karate.
“It makes me very proud to have Thomas Prediger onboard. His almost 40 years of experience in Karate have gained him incredible insights into the field of Shotokan. Above all, The Shotokan Times and the international Shotokan community will benefit immensely from his invaluable advice”, says Dr. Christian Tribowski, Managing Director and Chief Editor of The Shotokan Times.
Beside his task as an advisor to the management of The Shotokan Times, Thomas will also contribute a regularly column called “Kumite Boot Camp with Thomas Prediger” to The Shotokan Times.