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BM | 28th Feb 2008, 4:35 AM | 正剛館演義

This is Part 3 of Yoki sensei's USA adventure,  you can find Part 1 and Part 2 here.

下面是楊紀先生的美國之行第三集﹐第一集在此 第二集在此




" Free Sparing "

The chance to test my Karate-Do in America came unexpectedly early. Ten days after I arrived at the Mattson dojo, one morning I was finishing up my own workout and I was in the middle of writing a letter to Japan in the tea ceremony room when one black man came in to visit Mr. George Mattson. His age being about 24 or 25 years old, he was the height of an average American of about 5.8 ft. but he had an especially well-built chest just like a professional wrestler. Also, the permanent deep scar on his right eye area made him look more gruesome. As I thought he came to join the class to learn karate, I invited him to Mr. Mattson’s office, which was next to the tea ceremony room. It was normal procedure in this dojo that when anybody wanted to join, they must have an interview by Mr. Mattson for about thirty minutes.

Mr. Mattson would judge the individual’s personality and would confirm his or her health and the purpose of wanting to learn karate before giving his approval. He is a man of eloquence to convince people. He would see everybody; even those with just a curiosity to join the class the same day or who felt they would have regrets for the rest of their life if they didn’t start right a way. However, he would politely refuse those punks with tattoos. I found in America, many people with military service background have tattoos on their arms. It seems the USA and Japan has different ideas on this matter.

By the way, when I had the chance, I tried to listen to his interviews. I remember this ; scar face ; guy who came in claimed he had just returned to Boston from military service in Okinawa, and that he trained in Uechi-Dojo. Since he had a third grade brown belt, he felt he should be authorized to instruct in this dojo. He started to workout that same evening. There were four black students including one woman in class. People disliked him, not just because of any feelings of prejudice, but because he was told that he showed off too much. Meaning, he acted like such a smart guy. In the Dojo, before the class would start, he would cast a glance and then he would do a sudden performance with such a proud look. What annoyed people was the manner of his performance would be totally different in many points of view, such as the orders in the Kata, speed, etc. He looked quite powerful all right, but the basics of the Kata weren’t there in principle. The different style of school doesn’t mean different basics. Finally, one time he told Mr. Mattson, “The way you teach Uechi-Ryu here in this dojo is wrong.” This would never happen in Japan--a brown belt who had trained for merely six months would never utter a word of complaint to a third-degree black belt. However, amazingly Mr. Mattson replied humbly, “Please let me know if there’s anything different.”

I became aware that it’s not that easy to mange the dojo. Though Mr. Mattson trained in Okinawa six years ago, the basics would not be changed that easily. The free sparring in Karate-Do is one of the best ways to prove and improve the techniques learned from the daily training, blocks, punch and kicks, steps, and distance maintenance. It is quite a practical way. Also, it leads to improvement for a tournament sparring. However, the rule is to stop any attacking techniques by half inches away from the opponent and never are you supposed to make any contact.

Seigo-Kan, where I trained in Japan, is one of the famous styles of school, as we would train with actual contacts. In fact, we purposely would make contact to the stomach to see if the stomach muscle was trained strong enough. If not, we would need to train harder to improve and have stronger kicks and punches than the stomach muscle. However, this method could only be applied with enough senior qualified black belts who could control their techniques so as not to make any contacts with a beginner. Here, in this Mattson dojo, free sparring was allowed for those students who participated for a tournament for one- month prior, or else the Kata and pre-arranged sparring would be mainly adopted for a daily training. Of course, the free sparring was not the main purpose in the Karate-Do training, but it was one of the main methods.

Sometime later, Mr. Mattson told me that he used to train a lot of free sparring in Okinawa but six years ago when he started to teach after he returned, many students got hurt from the free-spar training almost everyday. Thus, he prohibited it as he believed Karate was not about getting hurt and allowed it only for the tournament participants. The free-spar training is unnecessary if Karate-Do is only for the health, but it is quite an effective way to improve techniques for self-defense.

Mr. Mattson asked me, “Is free spar the main training in Japan?” To which I merely replied, “No, not the main, but one of the main as perhaps we have enough black belts to prevent accidents.” Well, it seemed that Jim Wilson announced in the class to other students, “No free sparring, no Karate.” Mr. Mattson expressed strongly, “Without modest, humble heart and to respect opponent with no basic techniques is just the same as a street fight.” Well, he was damn right. By the way, he requested that he wanted to have a match with Yoki.

In this dojo, no-free spar match was allowed without permission from Mr. Mattson. I had already started then, instructing Kata and pre-arranged spar of Goju-Ryu style in the classes as required by Mr. Mattson, and he admired my Kata and basic techniques. He asked me to prove to the students how important it was to achieve the basic techniques; otherwise it may have a bad influence on those beginners.

At the next meeting of Mr. Mattson’s advanced class, as the rumor spread, every student, about fifty attended from fourth-grade brown up to black belts and of course "Scar face ;. Following a warm up exercise, Kata and other trainings, we finished much earlier than usual. With a three-minute time limit,

We faced each other under Mr. Mattson, as a judge. Usually you can tell more or less how good an opponent is before you start. Either you try to threaten the opponent when facing each other, look down and depressed already, or have some other tricky thing in mind. I noticed his distance was too far away already, but very nervously he kept hitting his foot on the floor ; “Bang, Bang”--trying to threaten me. I was a bit nervous, too, as this was the first free-spar match since I arrived in Boston. However, as usual, once face-to-face with each other, I just calmed down and was ready. Purposely, with a loud voice, in Japanese I said, “Onegaishimasu!” meaning “Please” in English. This didn’t help me to increase my fighting spirit. “Hacchime!” Mr. Mattson yelled.

I took my stance into a half leaning stance, though we had a distance that was a bit too wide apart. He was still tapping his foot on the floor but moving his arms and then started to move around me with the same distance between us. He moved quite smoothly considering his figure. Though he was trying to estimate his opponent, he himself had been wide open at many points. Perhaps he is not good enough at all for me, yet. Just for precaution, I gave him a test to see his technique. I slid in a few steps at the same time. “Kyeeeee!” with the squeaky voice--the right leg that he kept tapping the floor with came right forward to my stomach. He made a cute Kiai compared to his face. His kick was two inches short to my stomach, but I smashed his leg with my right arm down to the floor very strongly.  His leg felt like a log, but he would not be able to kick for a while as he must have became badly numb. Twenty seconds had passed. I decided to challenge his excellent stomach muscle in the rest of the time, but also with very clear points so that the students would be able to judge easily. I would use my kick--since one of the seniors I respected the most in my Karate club in the college advised me to have one technique to finish opponent definitely. Every night I started to kick with 10 kg/20 pounds iron tied onto my foot. (No one should copy this type of training, as many years later it would ruin the joints.) Since then I had to control my kick because it easily could break my opponent’s ribs. Right kick into his stomach with sharp Kiai, yet his stomach muscle was strong enough, though I did not use all my power. I gave a right punch and again a right kick to the same area. I did not give him a moment to attack back.

On each point, I heard, “ppoooon!” loudly from the judge. On the third point, my opponent’s face showed such pain. The dojo was full of strange moods, but with spirits of vigor no student had ever experienced. When the match was over I bowed and was going to leave when something occurred that I could never have expected. be continued... Next Chapter : " with George Mattson"