West Coast Regional TAA Seminar Review

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On October 7th and 8th the Bay Area Shodokan dojo of Berkeley, CA, hosted the first-in-a-long-time West Coast Regional TAA Seminar.  Seminars were taught by home instructors Warren Pottebaum sensei and Ash Morgan sensei, as well as invitees TAA Technical Director Bob King sensei, TAA Chairman Bob Dziubla shihan, and Mark Colopy sensei (Instructor Emeritus USC Shodokan).  Total attendance was about 22 by my count, a good mix of 15 dan and 7 kyu of all colors.  The hosts provided a comfortable and inviting environment, with good weather, plenty of good food and drinks, and plenty of mat space.  The Saturday and Sunday event had 3 seminars and a fun, education-oriented low-pressure randori competition.

After warm-ups, the first seminar session, led by Pottebaum and Morgan senseis, focused on extended principles of elbow control.  Interesting variations of sumiotoshi, tenkai kotehineri, gyakugamaeate and other techniques were demonstrated and practiced.  There was emphasis on inward, weak-line kuzushi setups, for example like using opposite-hand tegatena for jodan kuzushi waza (using cross-hand tegatena for mirror-hand, and vice-versa).

The rest of the event focused on randori.  In Session 2 King sensei sought to advance the competitive edge of the toshu player by demonstrating taisabaki, not just to escape the tanto strike but to use the taisabaki to set up and be part of a counter-move.  We paired up and drilled on a particular move that blocks the tanto from the inside with cross-hand tegatena, swings the extended tanto down as toshu quickly pivots to the outside of the tanto arm and forward, resulting in a position of control with left hand controlling tanto’s upper arm and right hand controlling the tanto wrist.  This requires a lot of practice since quickness and timing are essential, but the resulting controlling position sets up toshu nicely with several options for gyakugamaeate, sumiotoshi, ushiroate, gedanate, etc.  We also worked on a quick cross-step during that pivot to the outside that propels toshu forward quickly to that controlling position.  Time to step up our game!

We then switched to a randori training competition, led by Dziubla shihan.  This was a fun event, first with paired Junanahon competitions and then later switching to tanto randori (where you could try out your taisabaki-counter from Session 1 if you were a quick learner).  This was not a full blown competition but rather a fun and low-key vehicle for deeper focus on teaching the rules and also an emphasis on training for future judges, scorekeepers and timekeepers.  I enjoyed my first randori competition judging and timekeeping, learning proper flag usage.

The randori was interrupted by a particularly good pizza lunch, I should mention.  Plenty of variety, snacks and sports drinks.  At this point things got loose and friendly as some stayed on the mat while others ate.  Mingling, eating and mat fun all co-existed.  Eventually things once again tightened up, to finish the randori matches.

And finally, Colopy sensei led a seminar on the much-neglected use of idoryoku in randori competition.  I strongly agree with Mark’s thesis that we don’t use enough idoryoku in randori.  He led us in the use of idoryoku, not only in our techniques, but also in our escapes when locked up with an opponent.  He demonstrated, and we practiced, several methods of escaping a lockup with idoryoku that sets up kuzushi and techniques (or tanto strike) nicely.

All of us thank the hosts and the visiting seminar instructors for creating this successful event.  It gave us a lot to think about and practice, and gave us a lot of fun.  We look forward to the next West Coast Regional!