The Shotokan Times always searches for the best and unique products for Shotokan karateka out there. With the Ft One Shotokan Tiger Sneaker by Better Brands House we found the item for karateka, who want to wear their passion also in their spare time in order to show what they love.
Among our first testers of the shoe were Shihan Tatsuya Naka and Sensei Keigo Shimizu. While Naka Shihan received the his white Tiger Sneakers during a seminar in Munich in November, Sensei Shimizu had to wait until the beginning of February. Because the black edition had to be designed first.
The Better Brands House offers the shoe in four different versions:
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Rei has a special ceremonial meaning in Shotokan karate. It makes the transition from a casual mind into the state of budo. Most karateka, however, do not know that it is also good for ones health and for fighting. By Florian Wiessmann
Karate Dō begins and ends with rei. Gichin Funakoshi
Every Karateka is familiar with the first precept of Gichin Funakoshi – Karate Dō begins and ends with ‘rei’. Also probably nearly every Karateka agrees about the importance of this precept, putting rei at the very centre of their Karate practice. Yet many seem to forget, that rei is not only describing a mental attitude, but also a very concrete physical practice. Paradoxically, while rei as a mental attribute is emphasized, the physical manifestation of rei is often shunned upon by the very same Karate practitioners. They see seiza and bowing as something unpleasant and antiquated, only done to fulfill some kind of Asian tradition but with no real usefulness to Karate practice, let alone fighting proficiency.
This lack of appreciation often shows in sloppy reihō. Even advanced belts are struggling while getting up from seiza, glad that the unwanted part is over and the ‘real’ Karate practice begins. But why not staying true to Funakoshis precept and starting Karate practice (yes, I mean the actual physical training) with rei and not after it? You might ask why? Seiza and bowing have no real relevance in the western world, they don’t apply to your everyday life, let alone to physical Karate practice. Guess what: you’re wrong.
Bowing in Rei
Did you ever drop something? Did you have to pick it up from the floor? Happens all the time, right? This is essentially bowing! The question is, did you pick it up correctly in a back sparing way? Or did you struggle somewhat, picking it up in an awkward position? Unfortunately many people tend to hurt their backs while picking up stuff.
We all look like really folded cashews.
This is were we can learn from other cultures. Use your hips! Ever heard about using your hips in Karate training? Do it properly while bowing, too. Bending at the hips engages the hamstring muscles and takes the pressure off the back muscles, sparing your spine and possibly preventing back pain.
A correct bowing will change your body!
Seiza in Rei
Ok, so now you might agree to the relevance of bowing. But seiza certainly doesn’t relate to your everyday life and it hurts your knees. So more modern- and practical oriented martial arts are better of without seiza practice? Sorry, you’re wrong again.
The 2012 IFA Report (Institute for Work Safety of the German Social Accident Insurance) about work-related knee-strains mentions seiza and kiza as a common posture within certain crafts while working on the knees (e.g. tilers, plumbers and painters). Laboratory screening shows, that the knee is exposed to less straining forces while sitting on the heels compared to other forms of kneeling and crouching. Seiza and hiza are identified as a recovery posture for the lumbar spine and knees, especially the knee caps. The erected upper body, a relieve of the patella exterior and the contact with soft tissue furthermore reduces the forces on thighs and knee joints.
Seiza and MMA
And regarding ‘modern’ martial arts, actually most BJJ- and MMA practitioners will find themselves in seiza in nearly every training. Working from inside closed guard, a very common grappling posture, will most certainly lead to a seiza position. Therefore you often read about problems with sitting on the heels in MMA and Grappling related internet groups. So if you deem traditional seiza to be not relevant for you, think again.
Seiza and bowing in MMA training
While longer periods of seiza sitting can have a negative effect on postural control after standing up because of occluding the blood flow of the lower limbsand seiza at first can be very uncomfortable, especially on individuals not used to it. Seiza per se is deemed to be innocuous for the knees. Of course regular training of seiza will reduce the negative effects so you can use the practice of seiza to it’s full potential.
And there is more to seiza than to just sit on the floor. You have of course to transition from standing to the floor and get up again. While this is happening on a regular basis in every grappling- and throwing related art and is also still very present in middle east- and east asian cultures with a more floor-living lifestyle, this transitional movements are sadly very underrepresented in regular Karate practice. Transition into- and from seiza is your chance to experience this very important movement patterns.
Sitting/kneeling on the ground and transitioning to and from standing are a fundamental movement macronutrient, many are missing in their life and their natural movement training.
The osteopath Phillip Beach lists three common sense and clinically practical approaches to prevent musculoskeletal pain and dysfunction:
spending more time on the floor in archetypal positions (e.g. squatting, kneeling and seiza, cross legged sitting – ‘sitting on the floor in comfort is a developmental birthright’)
paying attention on the feet (our feet play a crucial role in our biomechanical well being and the rehabilitating of our feet is essential for reducing musculoskeletal distress)
revisiting the processes involved in rising from the floor to upright (‘the effort to erect oneself from the floor to standing are a way of finetuning the many muscles we use in life’) 
To love your reihō is to love your body! Make yourself familiar with correct bowing, squatting, seiza and corresponding transitional movements. This will improve your health, posture and after all your martial arts proficiency.
Florian Wiessmann: Practising Karate since the mid 1990s, I am currently a Nidan at the Nihon Karate-dō Shūshūkan, which is headed by Sugimori Kichinosuke (9.Dan) and its german branch is lead by Stephan Yamamoto (6.Dan). https://shushukan.com/
This weekend, our board member, Keigo Shimizu, and our managing director and chief editor, Dr. Christian Tribowski, took part in a seminar with Tatsuya Naka sensei in Munich, Germany. After the last class on Saturday, both overhanded Naka sensei a gift of gratitude: Our famous black The Shotokan Times hoodie.
Naka sensei was very surprise and expressed how much he likes the hoodie. He is also fond of The Shotokan Times. He said that The Shotokan Times should keep going with good work.
The Shotokan Times overhanded him another special gift. We will reveal what it is beginning of November 2019.
Everybody, who wants our black The Shotokan Times hoodie, can order it here in our shop or press on the picture below.
Okuri-tsuki is the most prominent unknown technique of Shotokan karate. Many karateka have seen or applied it. But they do not know its name or to describe it in technical terms. That is why we going to describe what it is and how to do it in this article. By Derick Kirkham
What is Okuri-tsuki? Hopefully this article will unravel any misconceptions that surround this neglected and under-used technique. The word Okuri in this application referred to as a meaning for “to slide”. But it is also probably the main reason why it is still occasionally mistaken for a form of Nagashi-tsuki (flowing punch).
Where Does it Come From?
Many of the Japanese instructors in the early days came to Karate after studying other oriental arts such as Judo and Kendo. Here they learnt the foundational concept of Okuri. For instance, Judo has a technique called Okuri-ashi-barai, which is the sliding leg sweep. Also in Kendo a specialized footwork technique named Okuri-ashi (sliding leg)Fig 1 exists and is a key part of Kendo’s tactical armory. This Shizen-tai footwork technique is important in Kendo. Because it permits the Kendo-ka to move extremely quickly forwards and backwards with only the minimum of “dead time”. Therefore,one should bear it in mind as a pertinent concept. To understanding the essence of Okuri-tsuki one needs to understand this concept.
The confusion about this technique has therefore several roots:
influences from other Japanese martial arts, which most Westerners did not learn;
complexity and too often ambiguity of the Japanese language;
the reluctance of some, not all of the Japanese instructors to give detailed explanations to their Gaijin students, of the names, concepts and meaning of every technique.
However, today our sources of information are better. Therefore, we want to explain how Okuri-tsuki works.
How Does Okuri-tsuki Work?
Okuri-tsuki means a punching technique that is delivered and reaches its target between the firm placements of ones launching and landing stances. The fist hits the desired target area whilst one’s body mass is still on the move. Therefore, its transit nature of the technique makes it difficult for some people to identify, classify, and perform. On the other hand it also makes it such a powerful hard hitting technique.
It’s not a variation of Oi-tsuki, Kizami-tsuki, Nagashi-tsuki nor Gyaku-tsuki. But understandably it can and is often mistaken for these techniques. Because it does resemble a poorly coordinated Oi-tsuki, or an over stretched Gyaku-tsuki, where the rear foot isn’t firmly rooted upon impact with the target area. Thus, some observers have difficulties to identify it, as its characteristic delivery speed masks the technique.
The Important Aspects of Okuri-tsuki
Its runaway freight train effect depends upon a couple of things:
timing of the launch of the punch,
forward projection of ones opponent, and
proficiency of the performer.
It’s neither a new technique nor a neglected one. By many it simply has been overlooked for many reasons. In my experience many neglect it in Kihon because it doesn’t appear in kata nor as a grading syllabus requirement. Due to its more agricultural and practical functionality it has also been over-looked in the modern sporting arena as it is believed to be too brutal and it lends itself more for use in Jissen and Jiyu-Kumite. Therefore, it poses the question: does it actually exist? Or is it just a quirky variation of another tsuki?
Does it really exist?
While the overall technique is somewhat Kamikaze looking in appearance, the underlying tactics employed are of equal importance to its success as the mechanics of the technique itself. The tactics involved are; selecting the correct mind set prior for delivery, ones timing, line and direction are all key. The technique can be delivered using a permutation of various tactics. However, the most commonly used and most devastating effects result by using a combination mind set of Ikken Hisatsu, Sen no Sen and Irimi. Therefore, the delivery of the technique in the following examples focuses directly in the forward direction.
Among the accomplished exponents of Okuri -tsuki, was the late Steve Cattle. Others worthy of note are the late Taiji Kase and Keinosuke Enoeda. In the new generation of Japanese Instructors people such as Tatsuya Naka and Takahashi Yamaguchi use it.
The execution of the technicques marks the most important aspect in its distinction from other techniques. While it appears somewhat Kamikaze-like, the underlying tactics employed accounts for its success as the mechanics of the technique itself. The tactics involved:
selecting the correct mind-set prior for delivery,
ones line and
Mind-set and Strategy Behind Okuri-tsuki
When it comes to the right mind-set a combination of Ikken Hisatsu, Sen no Sen and Irimi works best. The karateka in the follinwing examples deliver the technique straight forward with 100% commitment to and belief in the success of the technique.
However, the technique can also be delivered using the strategy of Go no Sen: “seizing the initiative later”. This requires blocking and then countering after the attack of the opponent. But commonly Okuri-tsuki becomes utilized in Sen no Se: “seizing the initiative early”. That does not mean that one necessarily makes the first move. More often it involves one intending to counter precisely at the same time that your opponents attacks.
Where does the sliding in take place in Okuri-tsuki? After one observes the technique, one could never describe it as being of a sliding motion. The Okuri name occurs after Kamae-te and refers to the essential preparatory footwork of Okuri-ashi. Fig 1 Its usage lies in the gain of territorial advantage and to ensure the correct launching distance the long range Tsuki technique. Therefore, Okuri -tsuki describes the tactical footwork of using the sliding leg (Okuri-ashi).
What makes Okuri-tsuki so effective?
Is it the unusual nature of its timing and delivery, which generates high speed with the minimum amount of “dead time”? Probably! But it comes as a payoff. The increased speed and reduced “dead time” leads to a loss in stability upon impact with the target.Especially during the mid-flight section the karateka stands only on one leg. This loss in stability, however, is due to the body’s full commitment and its follow through motion.
How to Execute Okuri-tsuki?
So, with the tactics firmly in place and the correct distance to launch one Okuri-tsuki gained by using Okuri-ashi, then let’s go through the execution of the technique itself. As we are using “Ikken-Hsatsu”, “Sen no Sen” and “Irimi” we will be stepping forward to deliver the technique.
1. Assume a right foot forward Kamae-te. Fig 2
The First Steps
2. Use Okuri-ashi to gain advantage to ensure that the correct launching distance is obtained. Fig 1
3. Quickly rotate the hips from Hanmi through to Sokumen and begin to punch Jodan-tsuki with the left hand, slightly before you start to move the left leg (Do-Kyaku) forwards. Fig 2 A
So far you can see why initially it may look like a static Gyaku-tsuki. However, where in Gyaku-tsuki one is expected to keep the body perpendicular throughout the hip rotation, and any forward projection and extension is achieved by the extent of the hip rotation, the distance the stance travels and the bending of the knee of the front leg. Whereas in Okuri-tsuki, one achieves forward projection by leaning slightly forward into the target. Fig 2 B
Note: unlike Gyaku-tsuki, the coordinated Hikite and the firmly planted back foot is not present throughout.
The Further Steps
4. Fig 2 C Shows a side view just prior to impact. This is the phase where the left leg (Do-Kyaku) starts to catch up by driving towards ones over stretched center of gravity point.
5. The left leg (Do-Kyaku) has now reached the body’s balanced centre of gravity point and the body is perpendicular, it is at this point when the explosive collision impact of the punch occurs. Fig 2 D Note how the left leg (Do-Kyaku) is still moving and not on the floor.
the impact in the basic form of the technique one should snap back the left
hand and firmly place down the left leg (Do-Kyaku). Variants of the snap back
are employed if the use of a follow on technique requires it Fig 2 E
7. The snap back of the left hand is in readiness. Assume a left leg forward Kamae-te.
Some Picture Studies
Photo Group A 1-8 demonstrates Okuri-Tsuki with the follow up technique of a highly destructive leg sweep performed with Ikken-Hisatsu in mind, as always by K.Enoeda. Note how much the front left foot moves forward in photos 1-2 gaining distance prior to the launching of the punch. Also consider how at the impact point in photo 3 his right foot lifts off the ground and on the move forward in photo 4. In this case the right foot not lands. But it delivers a leg bar to execute a powerful double leg sweep followed up with Otoshi-Tsuki.
Although the fighting art differs in Photo Group B 1-3 the physics, the theory and the end result remains exactly the same. Photo 1 shows the total commitment of the body to the techniques delivery as it approaches the impact point and notice that the arm is already at full extension, Photo 2 shows the impact point and by the way this particular punch was responsible for breaking the jaw of the durable and very tough competitor Ken Norton, Photo 3 shows that there is very little pull back of the technique after impact and the back leg of Muhammad Ali has still not caught up the forward projection of the attacker’s committed technique.
Conclusion and A Simple Test
Hope this article has introduced Okuri-tski to some and stimulated the interest in trying out Okuri-tsuki in your training regime to all. Although the objective of the article was to clear up the mysteries and misconceptions surrounding Okuri-tsuki, I invite you to conduct this simple experiment. I first saw it demonstrated by Masahiko Tanaka. As I firmly believe that it may help you as it did help me, to fully appreciate the advantages that “a moving mass” impact technique such as Okuri-tsuki can add to the overall effectiveness of your technique.
So then if you are in the game, then try this simple test:
1. Stand in a left leg forward Zenkutsu-Dachi
2. Position yourself close to a wall and extend the right arm out so that the fist of your right hand is firmly making contact with the wall.
3. Then push with the right arm into the wall constantly and experience what it feels like (in other words do not put on and ease off the pressure you are putting through the arm and fist during the experiment).
4. Next, without moving from the previous position, just lift the foot of the left leg and feel how your mass is being pulled further into the wall, i.e. into the would be target.
This is simply because the bodies mass is now unsupported and is subject to gravitational pull. Thus it simulates being on the move, whilst making contact with the target. This happens just a fraction of a second prior to landing your mass through the foot of the moving leg (Do-Kyaku) and just as you would experience it with a correctly delivered Okuri-Tsuki. Good Luck and Good Practice.
Zenkutsu dachi belongs to the most basic stances, or tachi-waza in Shotokan karate. In fact, it distinguishes Shotokan from other karate styles because most of them do not put so much emphasize on at. However, most karateka have a very static approach to the stance. Although new and dynamic approaches how to move in zenkutsu dachi have been developed in recent years. We are going to present them in this article. By Dr. Christian Tribowski
In recent years, a new way of moving forward in zenkutsu dachi has been established. For some commentators it is way too “sporty”. Others criticizes it for its exaggerated focus on leaning forward. We are going to present you the “sporty” version and contrast it with the modern approach to move forward in zenkutsu dachi taught by masters like Tatsuya Naka.
The Sporty Approach of Zenkutsu Dachi
The classical approach of moving forward in zenkutsu dachi has always focused on pull the back leg as close as possible to the front leg and from there to move it forward to the front. Several master like Masatoshi Nakayama and Hirokazu Kanazawa had taught it this way.
In the new approach, on the other hand, not the legs initiate the motion but the body center. The body shall be moved to the front in order to reach a tipping point. Behind this idea stands the conviction to let the own weight pull the rest of the body over the tipping point. This would save power and still create more speed.
The concept works best by bending the front knee through relaxation. Trough the relaxation the body enters a forward motion. This initiation works without utilizing power of the body. After the body center has crossed the tipping point the muscles in the legs become applied and generate extra speed and power.
Our friends from the Karate Dojo WaKu in Tokyo created an excellent explanatory video about this approach.
The Modern Approach
While the sporty approach indeed offers an efficient way of acceleration it also leads to an instable motion. It comes pretty close to “falling” forward. It sacrifices control for speed because the upper body leans too much to the front.
The classical approach, as far as taught by masters like Tatsuya Naka, combines the concept of relaxation with a strong focus of pulling the thighs together. Our advisory board member, Keigo Shimizu Sensei, explains this approach in the folling video. sent us the below video. Due to the fact, that he speaks Japanese in the video, we have here a brief translation for you:
“It is important to have the feeling that the thighs close during the step at all times. Not the feet execute the step but the thighs close and pass each other and accelerate together. Do not bring your feet together. If one masters this step it is possible to accelerate very fast and cross long-distances. To move fast and clean, the weight should not only lie on the front leg. The back leg has to be pulled to the front leg.”
The zenkutsu dachi step focuses more on pulling than on pushing. Due to that, both legs are engaged in the motion and the energy is directed to the front. This approach is a synergy of the classical and “sporty” step. It utilizes the energy that emerges through a relaxed front knee. But it combines it with a strong focus on an active back leg and a stable and coordinating body center. Through that it creates power and speed but also stability and security. Because for Keigo Sensei counts: “Kihon must work in Kumite. Kihon only for Kihon reasons is like a beauty contest.
Katsunori Tsuyama is by far the master of the masters. In this article we are going to portray this extraordinary Shotokan master. By Dr. Christian Tribowski
Have you ever thought about who the master of Shotokan masters might be? Who trains or has trained, for instance, Tatsuya Naka? The answer is: Katsunori Tsuyama.
Although he is widely unknown – except for some experts – he has been one of the most important figures in Shotokan over the last 50 years. The reason for his importance is that he has been coaching the famous Takudai Karate Club at Takushoku University in Tokyo. In this position he formed many excellent Karateka like Tatsuya Naka, Manabu Murakami, and Richard Heselton.
Who is Katsunori Tsuyama?
Katsunori Tsuyama and Takushoku University
Katsunori Tsuyama (津山克典) was born in Saga on the island of Kyushu in 1936. Not unsual for Japan, he got in touch with Karate during his highschool years. He was around 16 when he started to learn Shotokan Karate. Two years later, he moved to Tokyo. Tsuyama became a student at the already very famous Takushoku University. Gichin Funakoshi and Masatoshi Nakayama taught at this institution. While he enrolled in business administration he also joined its Karate club. Only two years later and not in his senior year, he became the captain of the team.
His rigorous training during his university years led him to historical success. At the first ever held JKA All Japan Championships in 1957, he reached the 2nd place in Kumite right after legenday Hirokazu Kanazawa.
From Tokyo to Saga to Tokyo
After he finished his studies in Tokyo, he moved back to Saga and worked as a manager. A few years later, worked for the company of his wife. Besides his business activities he also began to teach Karate. First, he taught at the University of Saga, a local highshool, and at a military academy.
Over the course of the years, Karate became again the major part of his life. In 1968, he got an offer to teach Karate at Takushoku University. He accepted and moved back to Tokyo in order to work as a sports teacher. To professionalize his teaching he enrolled in the faculty of sport science at the University for Education in Tokyo.When he passed the exam he became head coach at his alma mater Takushoku University. At the same time, he was teaching at the Honbu Dojo of JKA.
During this time, he also taught Karate at the JKA headquarter. Many famous instructors learnt in his class. Amon them were Hideo Ochi, Masao Kawasoe, Hideo Yamamoto, Tomio Imamura, Tatsuya Naka, and Yuki Mimura.
Head Coach at Takudai
Since the death of Masatoshi Nakayama, Katsunori Tsuyama leads as head coach the Karate education at Takushoku University. In this capacity he has formed many extraordinary Karate within the JKA, SKIF and JKF. Although Tsuyama Sensei has reached 83 years now, he is still active and teaching. Even abroad he has given seminar in the last 10 years.
Katsunori Tsuyama: Master of Kihon
Master of Kihon characterizes the style of Katsunori Tsuyama best. His major focus lies on basic training. Kata and Kumite always come second. Only when the body has memorized the right execution of a technique it will be really effective. For some this might be tedious. But Katsunori Tsuyama describes his approach in following way:
“At the end there is only one thing that is Kihon. Many complain about the monotonous basic training. The body may, however, be aware only by a uniform constant repetition of movements. One should look for the connection of conscious art and physical strength. The technique must be so trained that it settles in the subconscious. If it is needed, it shoots out, as easy as if you were speaking a word.”
To get an idea of him and his way of training for yourself, we have attached the following video. If you see some familiar faces in the video, please, write their names in the comments. Sorry for the poor quality.