First Annual Cenco Kata Clinic, April 4 & 5, 2015

Sensei Eiko Shepherd, 7th Dan, was the clinician for Central Coast Yudanshakai’s first Annual Kata Clinic.  This year’s emphasis was on Randori no Kata with an in-depth study of Nage-no-Kata on Saturday and Katame-no-Kata on Sunday.

Saturday began with a review of the finer points of ukemi, the importance of breathing, the meaning of “ju“, the execution of hand/foot movement and the importance of having a strong basic foundation.  Eiko Sensei’s clinics are not only about learning to perform the kata, but also, her presentations are lessons on how to teach.  The clarification on the “how” and “why” of each technique gives us an understanding of the essence of each throw, pin, arm-bar and choke. Sensei takes us beyond the gross motor movement and extends our knowledge to the detailed “why” of each movement in order to understand the “JU”. Once you learn the reason for every movement and how energy is used, there is less chance to modify the kata technique and adapt one’s own interpretation with excess movement for style. Learning the “anatomy and physiology” of each technique gave me a renewed sense of interest to my journey in judo.

Professor Jigoro Kano created the Randori no Kata. The kata may be Judo in its purest form, but Eiko Sensei shows us how the principles of kata are manifested in randori practice and shiai. The interrelationship between kata and shiai gives credence to the importance of studying kata for everyone. When we witness a perfect Ippon throw in shiai, which is executed with precise timing, kuzushi, tsukuri, kake with force, speed, control and landing, it is the ideal.

Eiko Sensei always adapts warm-ups to the particular waza she is teaching. She loves to make up games and has always been creative in working them into the warm-ups. After lunch, she gradually coaxed our bloated achy bodies back into action with relaxing warm-ups and fun games. It was amusing to see young and old judoka rolling around on the ground laughing and participating in silly games, but it worked! We then resumed the serious study of kata. We were taught the technical components of each throw as well as the “how “and “why” in detailed explanations and demonstrations. The relation to shiai was integrated into learning the kata throws, emphasizing basic judo technique and its application.

Sunday was spent learning Katame-no-Kata. The five techniques in each category: Osaekomi, Shime waza and Kansetsu waza were taught with the learning of escapes, applying the principles of physical movement, creating space,and hand/foot movement. Anyone can escape! Sensei’s attention to detail made the difference as to whether a technique would work or why it would not work, and how to correct the position with minimum effort and maximum efficiency! There was so much information to pass on to our students.

Our lunch was informal with a fun exchange of Judo stories from Eiko Sensei and Wilina Sensei. Again, warm-ups were hilarious fun as we transitioned back into practicing Katame-no-Kata.

The history of the annual kata clinic started in Chicago with Tohkan Judo Academy 24 years ago. Sensei Doug Tono has kept this going and the attendance has increased to fifty participants last year! Sensei Tono credits the study of kata  to his producing many national champions in shiai. Tohkan was 2013 National USJF Kata Conference host. Sensei Jeff Takeda from CHUKA Yudanshaki started their annual kata event in 2001. CHUKA hosted the 2011 National Kata Conference as well. This last year, their Annual Chuka Kata Clinic  studied Goshin Jutsu and Itsutsu and tested those interested for certification. Judokas from CENCO and NANKA Yudanshakais’ were warmly welcomed there, and enjoyed a down-home country lunch. The 2014 USJF National Kata Conference was hosted by Tsubota Sensei, Hodokan in Hawaii in conjunction with the USJF Junior Nationals. Noburo Saito, 8th Dan and Eiko Shepherd, 7th Dan were the clinicians. 2015 USJF National Kata Conference will be hosted by Intermountain Yudanshkai in Idaho with Senseis’ Eiko Shepherd and Doug Tono. The hope is that all California Yudanshakais’ will eventually host and develop one kata clinic a year. If we work together, focusing on two katas at each clinic, we can alternate every year and study all katas. The aim is to increase the interest in the study of kata and to certify more instructors. I believe there is something for everyone in judo … just find your niche!

A big THANK YOU to both Eiko Shepherd, 7th Dan  USJF Kata Chairperson, USAJUDO Vice Chairperson, and Wilina Monar, 4th DAN, CENCO Kata Chairperson.

With special appreciation to Willie Cahill, 8th Dan, for his kindness, support and use of his dojo.

And a grateful acknowledgement to USJF KATA COMMITTEE