On Sunday 4th March Wantage Shotokan Karate Club had the pleasure of hosting Shihan Paul Coleman for a 3-hour kumite course. Shihan Coleman holds a 6th Dan in Goju-Ryu (and a 1st Dan in Judo) and teaches full time at his Oxford based dojo. The absolutely stunning dojo (visiting is a must) is full time and traditionally equipped with makiwara, punch bags, chi-ishi (strength stones), tetsu sashi (iron padlocks), focus pads, etc. The floor is 125 sq. meters of strip maple and has tatami (mats) to cover the whole area. 22 classes are taught per week to some 200 students, with separate classes for children and adults of different levels of ability, being beginners, intermediates and advanced. A number of my students (with my blessing) regularly supplement their training at Shihan’s dojo.

Shihan Paul has travelled, taught and fought all over the world and won three world championships titles in Iri-Kumi (continuous fighting) that included Nage waza (throwing techniques). Two in San Diego in 1989 and 1990, and then Okinawa in 1991. Shihan Coleman is now a member of the JKF (Japan Karate Federation) Goju-Kai, the world’s largest Goju-Ryu association and he is also a member of the WKF (World Karate-Do Federation) which is the largest Karate governing body in the World. Shihan has also been recognised by Japan as a high enough grade to be on the European grading panel. This was during 1999, the first time that this has ever happened outside of Japan. His chief instructor is Shuji Tasaki 8th Dan, who is based in Japan.

Basic Goju Ryu kumite utilises strikes to the groin, in particular kicking techniques. It was therefore a mandatory course requirement for an adequate groin guard that incorporated bladder and peritoneum protection. For the attendees that were unsure of the location of their peritoneum Shihan Coleman poetically described its position and that it was not a Latin plant name that was found on the garden patios. The inadequacies of cricket type groin guards were later proved during kumite when Tony Heatherington (Shodan) had to take a breather following a mai-geri to the groin from Shihan Coleman. The fact that moments before this Tony Kizami-tsukied him on the nose as he was bowing prior to hajame was purely coincidental!

To gain confidence in targeting such areas attendees partnered up and kicked their static opponents. With emphasis on not looking down hence telegraphing the kick and achieving a slight tap of foot against groin guard. The majority of attendees made contact with the ball of the foot but Shihan Coleman stressed that it does not have to be a strong kick and that the toes could be used. This should not be relied upon as a finishing technique particularly if the opponent is pumped up but is more of a set up that gives more time for a finishing technique.

Round house kicking techniques, both offensive and defensive were practised. An alternative jodan mawashi-geri consisted of a vertically downward trajectory strike instead of a horizontal blow. This was achieved by turning the hips completely over until they were facing downwards. This effectively mimicked the final hip position of ushiro geri. Shihan explain that the kick was unaffected by a defender’s vertical blocking arm. Such blocks can deflect common roundhouse techniques when the blocking arm is inclined with the defender’s chin tucked in. The vertical trajectory of the kicking shin can cut between the head and the blocking arm to strike at the neck and collarbone.

Close range thigh kicks were attempted with the front leg to the opponents opposite leg. The difficulty with such techniques is the distance available for the kicking leg to accelerate to inflict sufficient damage. A number of senior individuals were prompted to demonstrate the inadequacies of this technique. Shihan showed that the secret was to flick the front leg as if trying to remove debris from the foot. This has the affect of rolling (and in some case shearing) the muscles off from the opponent’s femur and exposing sensitive (hence painful) nerve tissue underneath.

Two defensive techniques against thigh strikes were practised, one, a bracing technique and the other body conditioning (muscle development). The first consisted on tensing the leg being kicked while simultaneously pushing forward to meet the attacking leg. This has the affect of ‘bouncing’ the attacking leg off of the defenders and avoids the attacking leg penetrating as efficiently as it would normally.

A common technique against thigh kicks is to raise the defender’s leg and meet the incoming leg. This may result in painful and damaging shin to shin contact for the uninitiated. Instead of the shin, the contacting area of the defender’s leg should be on the muscle that runs in parallel with the shin on the outer side of the leg (Tibialis anterior). The definition of this muscle is improved by resisting the tension applied by a training partner pulling both feet back while in a sitting position with both legs out straight.

Defence against a jodan mawashi geri consisted of blocking with both forearms with the hands in a cupped position. Upon impact the cupped hands circle the blocked kick and continue rotating the attacker in the same direction. Shihan noted that it was important to direct the leg in a downward direction otherwise the attacker would have added momentum that would assist in completely rotating him or her and hence allowing another attack to be initiated. Having successfully turned the attacker Shihan recommended that a hiza geri be then used to strike at the attacker’s coccyx bone.

Simultaneous blocking with nagashi uke (sliding block) and punching to the opponent’s ribs was practised. Acceleration of the striking knuckles by starting with the wrist bent increased the power delivered on short range punching. The fist rolls and takes a scooping trajectory that is particularly effective against the ribs as it helps to part and penetrate them. The target area is under the pectoral muscle and in line with the solar plexus, in Japanese this area is referred to as the Ganka. The rolling action of the fist, added to the whipping action from the hips and the instant deceleration causes a devastating shattering affect on the ribs. Although similar to Ura tzuki (Uppercut), Goju practitioners called this Shita tzuki.

Shihan Coleman will be returning to the Wantage Dojo next year and I would strongly recommend any TSKA members should make every attempt to attend. It was a shame that only one TSKA individual from outside the Wantage Dojo participated. I hope I have given you a good and interesting taste of what you missed and a subtle hint on your priorities for next time.

Paul Edwards