I have a long-term interest in martial arts, no particular styles, the discipline and movements have always intrigued me. A few years ago my family started training in mixed martial arts at Dojang under Master Robert Lynds and his incredible staff. Dojang is a popular dojo in the Point Grey area of Vancouver close to UBC and has two other locations in Vancouver.
One of the more popular forms of martial arts, originating in Japan, is karate.
Some Karate History (thanks to Wikipedia)
Karate (空手) is a martial art developed on the Ryukyu Islands in what is now Okinawa, Japan. It developed from the indigenous martial arts of Ryukyu Islands under the influence of Chinese martial arts, particularly Fujian White Crane. It was brought to the Japanese mainland in the early 20th century during a time of cultural exchanges between the Japanese and the Chinese. It was systematically taught in Japan after the Taisho era from around 1926.
After World War II, Okinawa became an important United States military site and karate became popular among servicemen stationed there and spread to the US throughout the world.
Karate is now predominantly a striking art using punching, kicking, knee strikes, elbow strikes and open hand techniques such as knife-hands, spear-hands, and palm-heel strikes. Historically and in some modern styles grappling, throws, joint locks, restraints, and vital point strikes are also taught.
Karate training is commonly divided into kihon (basics or fundamentals), kata (forms), and kumite (sparring).
- Kihon: Karate styles place varying importance on kihon. Typically this is performance in unison of a technique or a combination of techniques by a group of karateka. Kihon may also be prearranged drills in smaller groups or in pairs.
- Kata: Kata (型:かた) means literally “shape” or “model.” Kata is a formalized sequence of movements which represent various offensive and defensive postures. These postures are based on idealized combat applications. The applications when applied in a demonstration with real opponents is referred to as a Bunkai. The Bunkai shows how every stance and movement is used. Bunkai is a useful tool to understand a kata.
- Kumite: Sparring in Karate is called kumite (組手:くみて). It literally means “meeting of hands.” Kumite is practiced both as a sport and as self-defense training and levels of physical contact during sparring vary considerably.
Rika Usami began her karate career at just 10 years old when she joined a local Goju-ryu style dojo in her hometown of Tokyo. She was inspired by her older brother who has already taken up karate as well as some female fighters she was on tv. Starting from a number of minor karate competitions during her teens, she soon began winning medals in tournaments worldwide and is now recognized as the female kata world champion.
As you can see in the following video taken during her performance of the kata ”Chatanyara Kusanku” at the 21st WKF World Karate Championships in Paris, France in 2012, her movements are fast, powerful and startlingly accurate. Over 12,000 people gave her a 5 minute long standing ovation after, amazing!
NAME: Rika Usami Takashi
BIRTHDAY: February 20, 1986
CATEGORY: Female Kata
DAN/KYU: 2nd DAN
MEDALS: 2 gold, 1 bronze
FACEBOOK PAGE: 宇佐美里香(Rika Usami)
Rika Usami’s Sensei, Inoue Yoshimi is a man who truly seems to have found his ikigai (meaning of life) in teaching Karate with kata as his specialty, having such world-class athletes as Mie Nakayama (4 times female kata world champion back in the 80’s), Rika Usami, and Antonio Diaz (current male kata world champion) as his personal disciples.
I like this video advertisement for its stylistics details as well of Rika Usami and Mahiro Takano, an amazing 9-year-old karate kid who has won U-12 National Karate Championships (Kata Division) three years in a row.
Mahiro Takano also stars in Australian singer and songwriter Sia’s music video “Alive”. “Alive” is the lead single from Sia’s seventh studio album This Is Acting released in 2016.