Shotokan Karate Academy

Review from Unsu Masterclass

Sunday 22 May 2011

On Sunday 22nd May 2011, Sensei Sherry gave a 2 hour masterclass on the Kata ‘Unsu’ with an open invitation for any Dan grade KUGB members. Around 50 students attended, including some of the longest standing and most senior members of the KUGB. The Shotokan Karate Academy was represented by Sayuri, Rosie, Emma, Nigel and Connor.

Unsu is a very popular kata in competition, largely due to the dynamic appeal of constantly changing rhythm and that gravity defying 360 degree jump, most recently and expertly demonstrated by our own Team Kata stars Dean, Vicky and Stuart when they took Gold at the Nationals on 14th May 2011. (click here for a link to their winning performance). The word ‘Unsu’ is made up from two Japanese characters meaning ‘Cloud’ and ‘hand’ and the name of the kata is generally translated as ‘cloud hands’ in reference to the constantly mystifying movement of the hands throughout the kata. Those of us new to the ‘chicken head’ block position certainly had stiff ‘cloud hands’ after Sensei Sherry corrected every tiny detail of our posture and hand positions.

As ever Sensei was keen to get us to lose any unnecessary and superfluous movement and demonstrated how we must simplify every individual count into a single flowing and continuous action, where each part of the body starts and stops in unison. His constant advice, to start every movement dynamically and to train ourselves to be quick and sharp, was ever present throughout. In every position and stance we were taught the correct position and how to use the tension of the full body to hold the position before starting the next move.

With constant repetition and practice we all started to make slow improvements and Sensei’s patience never faltered with those of us who were totally new to these new and complex moves. The two hour session flew by like the clouds our hands were trying to imitate and I’m sure most of us went home wondering if we might ever master the movements we had learned. Could we ever get up from the prone mawashigeris without looking like our grandparents climbing out of an armchair? Or achieve the grace and power necessary to deliver the jump turn?

It seems highly unlikely that I'll ever achieve medal winning mastery of this hugely impressive kata, but to be taught something of its finer points and have our minds opened to the beauty of these movements by our Chief Instructor was a great privilege indeed. We certainly went home with our heads in the clouds!   

Review provided by Nigel

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