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No Osae?

In the Guest Post by Sensei Pat Nakata entitled Transition, Nakata Sensei recounts a conversation I had with him and his student, Bob Inouye (Snaggy) at one of our favorite Chinese restaurants (that serves a great buffet). Knowing how important osae (press) is in their Chibana Shorin-Ryu system, I asked them how many Karateka they have observed performing osae.

As Nakata Sensei mentioned, they hardly see any osae. I think that Snaggy might have said, "None."

Quite honestly, I was surprised. I have been emphasizing osae in my dojo for a while now. It is very clear when a student does osae and even clearer when he does not! Without osae, the movement looks weak and empty.

Snaggy further explained that most people leave out osae because they are so focused on trying to execute the waza (technique) as quickly as possible. It is like they are racing! But he added, "Without osae you won't get to execute the technique."

Say you are going to execute two shuto uke (knife hand blocks), a right and then a left. After the first shuto, most students will rush to execute the second shuto. But what takes place between the two shuto is important -- perhaps more important than the next technique itself. If you are weak after the first shuto your opponent will be able to overwhelm you. He can break through your weak defense and crush you. You will not be able to deliver the second shuto!

So rushing from one technique to the other is bad Karate. Getting from point A to point B is not the point, or at least it is not the main point.

Why rush? I suppose it is because it looks good.

I will tell you something funny. My mother-in-law used to tell me that if you speak quickly people will think that you are smart. English was her second language and I was studying to be an attorney at the time. I believe that she was right -- at least some people will think that you are smart if you speak quickly.

I wonder if people think that you are good at Karate if you move quickly? I think so!

But just as a person could speak quickly but not know what he is talking about, a Karate student could move quickly but actually have poor technique. A skilled person could see this, but an untrained or lesser trained person might not.

Let us say that you have executed a chudan uke (middle block). After you block, you leave the block up for a moment and during this time, the attacker runs into it. If you have osae, you can knock him down or at least fend him off. If you have released your osae, he will be able to push your block aside.

Osae is also very important in Kendo. When the Kendo Sensei is facing you, his shinai (bamboo sword) is often aimed right at your throat. Although he appears to hold the shinai loosely, it is actually firm. He is pressing toward you.

I have experienced this firsthand when I charged in and was speared in the throat! It was like running into a brick wall (or a spear embedded in a brick wall). I almost killed myself!

But the shinai was firm because the Kendo Sensei was pressing (osae). Osae was part of his kamae (posture).

I know that I have oversimplified this, and I do not presume to know anything about Kendo (unlike my sons). But the point is that osae is emphasized in Kendo. You can see it and feel it when you run into a shinai.

Osae is also essential in Karate. Like Snaggy said, without it, you might not get to execute your next technique. This is especially true if your attacker is skilled and can read the weakness of your movement/posture.

It is amazing how much you can learn about Karate at lunch!

I want to also add that just about all of Nakata Sensei's students are senior to me in years of training and age. However, since I am their Sensei's friend, they are always very courteous to me. I never forget that they are my seniors, but recognize that they have been taught the traditional forms of courtesy. I learn a great deal about how I should be (as a student) by observing them, and try to pass this along to my own students.


Charles C. Goodin