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shortyafter
Orange Belt
Orange Belt

Joined: 17 Nov 2016
Posts: 169

Styles: Kyokushinkai, Shotokan

PostPosted: Mon Aug 20, 2018 7:34 pm    Post subject: Shotokan Karate of America Reply with quote

Hey folks, just had my first training at a new dojo that is a branch of an international organization called "Shotokan Karate of America" (SKA). I will update my personal thread with some reflections but wanted to open up a thread for broader discussion about this organization - I want to share what I observed and also get some outside feedback from you guys. Why? Because every organization I've ever been a part of always says their the best, and this one was no different. I've moved around a bit so I've had the privilege of training in various dojos, and in my humble opinion no style is the "best" - all have their strong points and of course some weak points too. So let's get a discussion going on this particular organization.


My impressions
Keep in mind I'm still a beginner to karate, I've only been training for 3 years and at my primary dojo (JKA affiliated) I'm a 6th kyu green belt. I've got a long way to go on this journey and I was reminded of that tonight by these guys. But yeah, keep that in mind as I share what I noticed:

1. Good tips for kumite. We did some jyu kumite as well as some form of ippon kumite that focused on free counter-attacks. They gave me some really good pointers - keep eyes locked with opponent, counter-attack quickly, attack to the head not to the body, when possible. I felt these were all very valuable pointers for me.

2. It seems like I'm telegraphing my oi-tzui somehow, like, my arm is moving before my feet and it's easy to block and counter. I feel this is a good fix for me but it will take some time to get the knack of it.

3. Very intense physical workout. Not anything insane but up there with my Kyokushin days which were almost insane, if not totally insane some days.

4. Kata was like, go at your own speed (when not by the count), even when we did it in a group. In Kyokushin I was always told to stay together with the group. That was a bit odd to me but it sort of makes sense, sort of.


Oi-tsuki - squared shoulders vs. extended shoulder?
Here's a point I'm not sure on but would like you all's opinion:

In JKA I was taught to keep the shoulders square when I launch the oi-tsuki. They showed me that in SKA they actually extend the attacking shoulder in a sort of spear like motion. They say it adds power. I can sort of see it but would like an outside opinion. My impression is that it's possible but I believe I was taught to square my shoulders for stability.

Special Trainings
Maybe I'm just being paranoid but lately I've been watching this show on the A+E network about cults. And it's funny because some of these traits they attribute to cult leaders I identified in my ex-Sensei. Sort of exaggerating but maybe not really. This tidbit they included in their brochure which I also found online:

http://ska.org/ska-special-training/

Seems a bit strict to me but hey maybe I'm just a total weakling.


TL;DR - practiced with a new dojo affiliated with Shotokan Karate of Association (SKA) tonight. Listed my thoughts above - good stuff, but I'm always skeptical because every organization seems to think it's the best. You guys got any experience with or knowledge about these guys, or any opinions? Would love to hear it. Feel free to ask me anything. I plan to go back on Wednesday.

Thanks.
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OneKickWonder
Purple Belt
Purple Belt

Joined: 17 Feb 2018
Posts: 513

Styles: Tang soo do

PostPosted: Tue Aug 21, 2018 5:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I followed the link to the special training bit. It reminded me of the cobra kai sensei from original Karate Kid.

But seriously, the most intense physical and mental exercise the students have ever faced? And to be allowed on it your sensei gets to decided if you're physically fit for it. That probably works for people in their 20s in peak condition. As a mid 40s chap there's no way on God's earth I'd be allowing anyone else to judge my readiness to embark upon any intensive physical training, unless that person was a highly qualified doctor or medical consultant and had carried out at least a basic physical assessment involving blood pressure and heart rhythm checks. Of course your sensei will have protected himself. He'll no doubt have got all students to sign a medical declaration for the records, where you all say you're fine to train, so that's all OK.
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shortyafter
Orange Belt
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Joined: 17 Nov 2016
Posts: 169

Styles: Kyokushinkai, Shotokan

PostPosted: Tue Aug 21, 2018 6:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hey OneKick, thanks a lot for getting back to me.

Training was not bad and people were friendly, but I suppose red flags did come up. Firstly there were no beginners, just me. Almost like they are an exclusive club or something but hey that could just be my read on it. Second the CI was very positive and encouraging but now looking back there were a couple of black belt students who seemed a bit condescending in their corrections. Again maybe Iím misreading it but I got a good vibe from most of them, but one couple (husband and wife, two advanced students) particularly rubbed me the wrong way. Third they immediately started telling me how SKA was superior to JKA and recommended I find a SKA dojo in Spain, where I live 11 months out of the year. Certainly one prefers their own style but to the exclusion of others? Possibly another red flag. The woman that rubbed me the wrong way told a visiting brown belt that ďwe have a special training in Boston next month, if you end up drinking our kool-aidĒ. Literally said that. The religious adherence to a certain style scares me a bit.

The special training thing really did it for me. Apart from what you said, also the fact that you literally canít leave without permission, and if you do they sack you from the organization. Like, how about an incentive based system? Special trainings for 1st dan grading or something. But do as we say, or else? Plus no sex, alcohol or smoking. I mean, I donít even drink or smoke, and probably wouldnít be looking to shag at this kind of thing, but did it need to be said? Seems like another control thing. Finally like you mentioned, the ďmost intense physical and mental workout of your lifeĒ. Iím all for training hard but this attitude of ďpain is goodĒ is something Iím quite skeptical of. Especially when itís forced on you from higher ups.

I donít know. Maybe Iím being too harsh on them now after getting your opinion. But I really appreciate it because Iím a newb and I donít know whatís out there and whatís normal/good and whatís well, not. Would love to hear more from you if youíve got any other insight, and would love to hear from others, too. Thanks again.

I havenít paid anything yet so Iíll think about this a bit more before I decide to go back. Part of me says ďitís only 3 weeks what have you got to lose?Ē but honestly Iíd rather train by myself and do conditioning/strength/flexibility in my time off rather than train with fools. But not casting my final judgment yet.
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OneKickWonder
Purple Belt
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Joined: 17 Feb 2018
Posts: 513

Styles: Tang soo do

PostPosted: Tue Aug 21, 2018 3:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't think I've ever met The Perfect Instructor. I don't even think such a thing exists. Bit for all the little flaws and quirks of the many instructors I've met over the years, not a single one has ever made me feel under pressure to do anything I don't really want to. Sure there is positive encouragement. Sure I've had people screaming in my face to go faster or just keep going, but not in a threatening way. Always in the kind of way that a spectator might scream at their favourite sports team or athlete to squeeze that bit more out.there's been times when I've fallen short, unable to continue, or unable to keep up. There's been times I've had to wobble uncoordinated out of the hall to cool down and compose myself. When such things happen there's been nothing but total support. That's been there in multiple clubs covering multiple styles over multiple decades.

I'm aware of associations with politics such that you're supposed to believe you owe them everything. But you're given them your time and money in exchange for some knowledge. It's a fair deal. When the seller starts dictating to the buyer, the buyer can just walk, and buy that knowledge from somewhere else.
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shortyafter
Orange Belt
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Joined: 17 Nov 2016
Posts: 169

Styles: Kyokushinkai, Shotokan

PostPosted: Tue Aug 21, 2018 4:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good insight OneKick. At my previous dojo I received the "scream in my face, but in a threatening way" kind of encouragement. Like, push yourself harder, or else! I much prefer the type of encouragement you mentioned, and despite my recent post about my primary instructor having a bit of a temper, I've never felt threatened or belittled by him in any serious way. These new guys? I'm not so sure. To soon to tell.

Like you said, there is no perfect instructor. I'm trying to find that balance between exploring my options and finding what works for me, but also just being happy with what I can get. I'm not sure what I'm going to do at this point but I'm thinking I'll play it by ear and go with my gut. Thanks again for the insight, it's very helpful for a new guy like me.
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JR 137
KF Sempai
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Joined: 10 May 2015
Posts: 2432
Location: In the dojo
Styles: Seido Juku

PostPosted: Tue Aug 21, 2018 7:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Playing devilís advocate and giving the benefit of the doubt here...

The rules seem quite strict, but perhaps theyíre there because peopleís behavior in the past? Perhaps there were incidents with drugs and sexual activity in the past and they want to squash it before it becomes a problem again. Perhaps people were showing up for certain things and leaving, causing some logistical problems.

Needing permission to leave is a bit excessive. Kicking someone out for leaving is pretty extreme.

These are consenting adults who are most likely paying for the training. Pretty nonsensical sounding that they feel the need to come up with the rules. I get that they donít want issues surrounding drugs, alcohol, sex, etc. If theyíre renting a place that has strict policies regarding this, I understand them conveying that to the students. Remember, theyíre renting a private boarding school, so their rules could be the source of some of it. But thereís a different way that could be better. But needing permission to leave and be expelled if youíre not granted permission? Absurd.

My organization had a week long camp/seminar/whatever youíd call it for our 40th anniversary 2 years ago. There were rules, but they were common sense respect rules. Some were a bit strange, but they were the university that was being rentedís policies.

And couples were allowed to dorm together if they requested it. My CI and his wife werenít forced to get separate rooms.
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shortyafter
Orange Belt
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Joined: 17 Nov 2016
Posts: 169

Styles: Kyokushinkai, Shotokan

PostPosted: Tue Aug 21, 2018 9:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi JR. Sure, I mean, I'm sure there's some basis to it besides like evil cult doings... there has to be. But like you said, it's definitely pretty extreme and when I read that bit in the brochure it sounded some alarm bells pretty quickly (especially given the problems with my previous dojo). I'm glad I'm not the only one who noticed that.

Again, I have no intention of doing these special trainings. But being around people with this kind of training philosophy? I almost prefer to pass. It's got to seep into the lower ranks somewhere. But yeah we'll see.

Thanks for the input.
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sensei8
KF Sensei
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Joined: 23 Feb 2008
Posts: 14950
Location: Houston, TX
Styles: Shindokan Saitou-ryu [Shuri-te/Okinawa-te based]

PostPosted: Wed Aug 22, 2018 6:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

At the SKKA, we've never ever said that our Governing Body was the best!! Why?? Because it's not!! Never has been and never will be because nothing and no one is perfect nor complete; flawed to the core. BUT, we're super duper far, way far, very far away from being the worse.

Any Governing Body of the MA says that they're the best, well, show me the best, and I'll show you the worse.



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**Proof is on the floor!!!
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shortyafter
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Joined: 17 Nov 2016
Posts: 169

Styles: Kyokushinkai, Shotokan

PostPosted: Wed Aug 22, 2018 4:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi sensei8. As one non-MA friend of mine put it, "well of course they're excited about something they're invested in". That attitude I can understand. And nobody's going to want to train at an inferior dojo or organization (as you alluded to). But feeling the need to talk down on other organizations in order to build my own up? Kind of insecure, and lame. I agree with you. Thanks for the input.

Update on these guys: training would have been tonight. I thought about it and honestly they're not that bad. Don't know if I could stomach full-time with them but I could definitely learn a lot from them as a guest these next couple of weeks. The CI in particular had really good encouraging energy. All that said, I'm not desperate to get back in there, and I've got some nasty blisters on my feet. They don't have a tatami, just a standard gym floor, and my feet didn't really like that on Monday. I'm going to let these feet heal up and I'll reconsider going next Monday.

Tonight, then, I'm off to the gym to do some weights, stretching, light kata, and maybe hit the bag around a little bit. May not be training at this dojo but that doesn't mean training stops. Thanks to all for chiming in, and feel free to keep 'em coming.
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OneKickWonder
Purple Belt
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Joined: 17 Feb 2018
Posts: 513

Styles: Tang soo do

PostPosted: Thu Aug 23, 2018 2:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

shortyafter wrote:
Hi sensei8. As one non-MA friend of mine put it, "well of course they're excited about something they're invested in". That attitude I can understand. And nobody's going to want to train at an inferior dojo or organization (as you alluded to). But feeling the need to talk down on other organizations in order to build my own up? Kind of insecure, and lame. I agree with you. Thanks for the input.

Update on these guys: training would have been tonight. I thought about it and honestly they're not that bad. Don't know if I could stomach full-time with them but I could definitely learn a lot from them as a guest these next couple of weeks. The CI in particular had really good encouraging energy. All that said, I'm not desperate to get back in there, and I've got some nasty blisters on my feet. They don't have a tatami, just a standard gym floor, and my feet didn't really like that on Monday. I'm going to let these feet heal up and I'll reconsider going next Monday.

Tonight, then, I'm off to the gym to do some weights, stretching, light kata, and maybe hit the bag around a little bit. May not be training at this dojo but that doesn't mean training stops. Thanks to all for chiming in, and feel free to keep 'em coming.


I've trained in multiple TSD schools, and wado school, and king fu. I've also done a very small amount of judo and aikido. The only clubs that have the mats out all the time were the judo and aikido. I don't think at kung fu or wado we even had any mats to get out if we wanted them. In TSD the mats tend to come out only if we're having a specific focus on breakfalling.

For karate and similar, I believe mats are counterproductive for the most part. The training hall floor is invariably nothing like the real world as it is. Add an inch of dense foam to the floor and it becomes as far removed from the real world as it gets. But not only that, mats will impede your foot pivots when kicking, and they'll take away some of the determination to stay upright when your opponent is trying to floor you.

Mats have their benefits of course. When practicing falls, if you get it slightly wrong, as sometimes happens even to the most experienced martial artists, it's best to get it wrong on rubber than on concrete. But I wouldn't judge a club by the presence or absence of mats (unless it was a club that likes throwing a lot).

Something to consider. Some clubs become part of an association purely for the help with grading and marketing and insurance, rather than a steadfast support for the association philosophy. If the instructor you've found seems like a good one, I wouldn't automatically judge him based on association literature.
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