The following are Grand Master Seikichi Iha’s general remarks regarding Black Belt Testing.
1. Proper kata, makiwara, and partner practice are at the heart of Shorin ryu. This is why each examination has three parts.
2. During individual kata demonstrations one must balance between complete exhaustion and a lack of outpower.
Sensei says this balance is found in your own body only if you train to complete exhaustion much of the time. He recalled that in his younger days in Okinawa he and his
friends would figure out different ways to bring their bodies to the point of exhaustion. For example, they would use isometrics and see who could bring themselves to sweat first. Or they would assume various stances and push against immovable objects and see who could go longest while giving full outpower. Sometimes they would see who could break the makiwara or lift the heaviest weight.
Sensei gave these examples to illustrate the point that we only grow when we put ourselves in situations where we max out on a regular basis. What weight lifter never adds weight to the bar? Kata, he says, is only kata if it is done in that spirit. It is a sprint, not a marathon.
3. While it’s true that at times we have to go slower to refine the technique, we must not stop there but rather understand that it is a martial technique that requires a certain balance, speed, and outpower as its end.
This feeling in kata is called “ijiki”. Ijiki is this lively action that gives onlookers a sense of awe, that they can see that you are visualizing fighting when you move in kata.
4. Ijiki combines breath control and a balanced and rotating center (jiku) through correct posture (head always over center) and lower abdominal awareness (moderate pushing out from below the belly button).
This, combined with the connection of the elbows to the body, allows for outpower to come from the hips and spine and not the shoulder and tricep. This centrifugal force is called “enshin ryoku”. Punches are not pushed out; they are whipped out.
5. Part of kata demonstration is the kiai. If possible, it should be jarring and off setting. It is the audible manifestation of your spirit.
6. Partner work for a test is never about competition. After a few moves a person’s skill is very apparent. Rather, during the examination, partner work demonstrates your ability to control yourself and harmonize with your partner. This difficult ability is “kakehiki”. Sensei says it is easy to sing a solo but much harder to harmonize.
7. Sensei also would like to see students stick to the standard curriculum in partner work with no affectations, creative counters, etc. Many of the students have never worked together prior to the test and unexpected moves can result in injury. While those variations (henka waza) are proper for exploring on your own, the examination setting is only about the curriculum.
8. When students demonstrate strikes on the bag and board, distance and recoil control are important. This is only learned by doing it on a regular basis, but since students are using a bag and board that they are often unfamiliar with at hombu they should understand how heavy and stiff the objects are before they strike it.
9. Sensei says the ability to put your power into someone else is primarily developed by makiwara. It is your other sensei.
Roberto Curtis, Kyoshi, 8th Dan, Beikoku Shidokan Virginia Dojo