Nobody, on this or previous centuries in the history, has done it before, but Yahara literally “come, saw and win”. His personality and karate skills are worth of his very good reputation. Yes, his reputation is outstanding, as every serious Shotokan Black Belt knows — it contains even some legends and myths.
Yahara Sensei runs his own organization with Isaka Sensei — Karatenomichi World Federation. I was invited to the course from Estonia (ca’ 1200 km distance — afternoon and one night by train from Baltic States) by KWF Russia. Special thanks to Mr. Alexander Chichvarin — Head Instructor, he is outstanding organizer, leader and friendly host. I enjoyed my stay.
Moscow is very exiting and interesting place, but yes — it is different from your home country. There live some 17 million people. Russians are very open and “politically incorrect” — they are honest and warm-hearted people — never “keep smiling with fist on the pocket”. And sport facilities — marble and granite are of large use, plus good quality wood floors. Nice and clean single hotel room costs 25 EUR.
About Yahara Sensei. He is direct, honest, with good sense of humor and yes, he is also very good “manipulator” — he takes the group into his hand and makes with it what he needs to do and everybody are happy, it was like a good rock artist. He himself trains with us and enjoys every second of the training. He is always 100% concentrated. He was patient with us, even on the cases if we act like children (this funny together photo and signature session). He is vital and his technique is unique — he is like fighting machine. My opinion is that he is very lucky man because he does exactly this what he is built for. He himself says to us — “I do not like karate — it is very difficult. I do it every day”.
No, I am not blinded to say that He is God and my eyes are now first time opened, not at all, but if You are serious about Your trainings in Traditional Shotokan Karate-Do, he is one of those “Peaks” — You have to reach to train with. His dedication, deep knowledge and ability to teach you - are outstanding. You enter to his course as one person and when it is over — You have changed. Yes I know what I am talking about, I have been lucky and honored to participate on courses of Senseis Sugiura, Enoeda, Miyazaki, Ogura, Omura, Tanaka, Ueki, Imura, Ochi, Iida, Kawazoe, Smith, Tsuyama, Asai, Kato, Akita, Yaguchi, Shiomitsu, Tsuyama, Miwa (not on any special order except Sugiura Sensei) to “name some” higher ranks — who are capable to do the same. Yes, I am impressed by myself too. Honestly.
So... the course. First advantage — Yahara speaks in Japanese and it was punctually translated to Russian (I am fluent in this language too). I think some misunderstandings in high quality training and knowledge transfer are usually caused by poor language skills from both sides. Other advantage was that there were only black belts, with quite different standard as always, but all skilled karateka. Course consists of two parts — two day “ordinary” and one day “so called” (I am critical to us) Master Class. On Master Class we had some 25 students, but on “ordinary” part there were some 80 students. Yahara has some time for almost everybody personally. And yes, I got some “Yahara treatment” and due to that my Zenkutsu dachi improved dramatically and also back legwork. He just came and made some corrections. It seems to me that it was example of this old statement “If You are ready — teacher will come”. One Yahara’s method or side was that if some students technique looks good — he says it right there in front of class: “you are doing it good” and if not so good, he says: “I am sorry, but this is not good at all”. Both statements have motivating effect to everybody. As some leadership gurus say: “Praise people and they will move to office with their sleeping bag”. So we tried hard. Trainings were 2 hours “short” and consisted of practice and also a lot of explanations and special supporting exercises — he did not let us learn things wrong way. And time flied — when it was time to Seiretsu (line up) it seemed that only 60 minutes have passed.
Basically it was all UNSOKU training. Basics, hip usage, full diapason, hikite, straight back position, rhythm and body usage course. Basics are basics are basics. If You have good basics — You have it all. And he says, “Pain is good”, if You train without pain — it is useless. “Act as the machine — forget You are weak human being”. And Yahara’s fighting spirit — it is impressive.
First training: Unsoku, Basics, Kime. 5 points have to stop together on technique execution — knees, elbows and hara. Hikite for Oi- and Gyakuzuki is done by moving back leg one leg length forward — because this leg has less weight on and you have to go on position to proceed your attack or defense or change direction. To create energy — direction of leg parts and hand parts are important; otherwise 2+2 can be in sum only 1,5 not 6 as on synergy. Use of hips — on Kihon, Hanme was even 90 degrees — maximum diapason to create maximum power from hips and legs. Use of joints; how to create two-dimensional spring effect. Here is the part where he makes my Zenkutsu dachi work better — much lower and more flexible, sounds controversy but it was not.
Second training: Jiyu Ippon Kumite. Usage of those skills learned on first training. Lot of exercises and breaking everything into parts and then build it up again. Keeping it this way. End of the first day — my legs are on fire.
Third training: Yahara’s special spinning Uraken uchi. Use of all body, without elbow snap. He has extremely good balance on it and is very convincing on applying power and speed — more important even timing = rhythm. This was something new. It is impressive, how this JKA generation has same basic understanding and creative thinking. At the same training we do Mawashigeri. Leg is moving up from back and then hits from up to down as hammer. Unstoppable and strong. He hits one quite heavy man and it was picture worth of listening - how this man drops instantly down from knees and his eyes opened wide from some feeling (I do not know what he feels, he only shakes his head afterwards). We do some special exercises for Mawashigeri on the floor and with usage of belt. Yes — it is clearly an art. Martial art.
Fourth training: Kata Bassai Dai and Enpi. Full usage of hips and diapason and additional power generated to give to those kata new dimensions. Now I have to overview all my other kata performance. I am lucky. Stepping on changing direction — at first step with toes to the ground then powerful snap with hips to the place — Kime generated is very impressive. Second day is over. If I was tired yesterday, then what to say about today? Most important is to get warm tomorrow.
Fifth training. It is this Master Class part. Kata. I was lucky to lead warm up. We, the class, are clearly far to be masters but we are so eager to make famous Unsu. Yahara suggests us some other kata, but Unsu was our obsession. Client is always right if he is good client. And then it happens... Yahara lets us perform kata, then he thinks some “light years” and with very serious face... Anyway he proceeds and concentrates on three parts from this kata: Tateshuto — Gyakuzuki round, Mawashigeri’s on floor and from first Haito to last Gyakuzuki on this particular “corridor”. This was amazing — level of his knowledge. He shows us things we find hard to imagine there already exist. What a refinement and passion. It is quite intangible.
Sixth training. Master class kumite class. Exercises for Jiyu Kumite. How to use legs, how to move, how to change direction, how to attack, how to counter. Kumite seems to be his absolute passion and forte. Yes, it ends to us with some bruises and scrapes and pain.
It was full usage of time; finance people use to say - investment.
I wish all the best to all karateka from all different organizations. If we work wisely and hard — we can make this World a better place to live in.
About myself: I act as leader and head instructor of both Estonian JKA Shotokan Karate-Do Association and Tallinn Technical University’s Shotokan Karate-Do Club. I hold Yondan from JKA. My mentor after passing Miyazaki Sensei is Ochi Sensei. And I practice karate from the Year 1982. I am born in 1964.