Rite of Passage
It was that time again when IKKU dojos gather from near and far to watch the traditional rite of passage. So many yudansha have traveled this beaten path before, but it never gets old. Each year the IKKU evaluates candidates at classes, camps, and clinics. The premise, to identify yudansha that fit the criteria for the Annual IKKU Annual Black Belt Test. Then identified candidates will work diligently towards test day preparing for whatever challenges may present themselves during the exam.
This year the 2018 IKKU Annual Black Belt Test was conducted on Saturday, September 22, 2018, in Social Circle, GA. at Tora Shin Karate Kai. Hanshi Ron Downton hosted this event at his Hombu Dojo and welcomed in the big group of 7 outstanding participants. There were approximately 25 observers including members of the IKKU High Dan Board observing the exam. Soke Joe Ruiz, the IKKU founder, personally spent his time watching and walking the floor while he conducted the exam. You can bet after 60 years in the Arts that Soke has experienced a lot of exams during his time.
Kihons, Omotes, Kata, Bunkai, Education were all a part of the testing criteria for the participants. So together they drilled kihons and omotes in group formation during the early stage of the exam. Both Kata and Bunkai were performed in a group and individually by each test participant. Soke took turns calling each participant onto the floor at his discretion. Each person performed many times individually on the floor depending on the requested challenge issued by Soke. Bunkai sessions against live attackers occurred as Soke called out particular parts of interest from various kata. So each person had the opportunity to perform kata bunkai for Soke and the High Dan Board.
Renshi Shihan Laurie Kazilionis performed Bunkai of Gojushiho Kata in its entirety. This brought a round of applause upon completion of her interpretation of the bunkai sequences. As well other participants performed kata and bunkai which also brought cause for applause. Required Kata, Bunkai, Favorite Katas and even Katsu-Ryu Kempo made its appearance during the exam.
Sanchin Shime Testing
Nearing the end of the exam participants assumed the traditional sanshin dachi stance. This is a point in time when Soke rigorously test each participant. Shime translates to mean; to lock, tighten, or shut. This word is used in regard to the practitioner’s ability to lock the body down, to tighten, and to shut off the areas of vulnerability.
Shime testing is a drill, conducted by a Sensei during a black belt requirement test. The participant’s job is to stay aware of the Sensei and his striking targets and directions of attack. This will allow the test participant only a moments notice to focus and tighten on various muscle groups while performing Sanshin Dachi.
The test conducted on a student new to Sanchin Shime is done by pressing and feeling and feeling from the Sensei rather than slapping. This assists greatly in making the student more aware of and developing strong habits for beneficial Sanchin training. Besides, there’s plenty of time for slapping and conditioning drills on down the line.
The Immovable Stance
The idea behind the testing is to have the practitioner placed under a load and to see how their structure performs in simulated stress conditions. The intent to find the weak spots in the structure, with the goal being discovery, so that the practitioner can correct the weakness. What is considered to be classical testing, striking the practitioner with a stick, shinai or such is actually a modern ritual. Some karateka may tell you that this form of testing is incorrect but I would like to state for the record that Sanchin Shime Testing should be inclusive all test necessary to assure that the ultimate goal is met. And this list does include slaps, kicks, punches, and whacks from a Shinai. With achieving an immovable stance as the end goal.
Power begets power, the harder you hit the practitioner, the more intensely they respond, the more power they use to hold their ground. Percussive striking forces the body into a form of protection.
Congratulation goes out to the IKKU Members that tested during the Annual 2018 IKKU Kotosu-Ha Shito-Ryu Black Belt Test. As you are all aware it’s not an easy feat preparing for a Black Belt exam. Karateka of this rank really test every class, but the perspective and pressure change a bit when faced with spectators. Not to mention having the high dan board present along with multiple 8th to 10th Dans, overseeing the exam. Regardless of life’s current situations, time restraints, and training pressures, these karatekas came through with well-deserved promotions.
Soke took the time to personally belt each individual and then read the verbiage and rank for each promotion from the new Menjo. Following the Obi and Menjo Presentations, each candidate had a ceremonial sake with Soke Ruiz. A small amount of sake serviced in the presentation area for the test participant to partake added to the tradition. A ceremonial bow takes place following the obi presentation between the participant and Soke. The participant then drinks the ceremonial sake and bows to Soke before stepping away and back into line. After all the participants were belted, finished and back in line then Soke and the Sake Meister took a ceremonial sake together.
As a final symbol of acceptance from the union members, all the test participants interlock shiko dachis and elbows into a straight line. With each participant’s midsection unobstructed, every onlooker gets to come by for a free shot. The participant tightens their hara and emits a loud kiai as each attacker approaches, bows to show mutual respect and then lunges in with an attack. That’s right, 25 test onlookers equate to 25 free punches to your stomach! Some much harder than others, and Soke’s comes last after everyone else has worn you down. With a smile on your face, you tighten your hara and kiai at just the right moment before the next karateka lunges in as they show their newly promoted karateka love and acceptance on their monumental achievement.
2019 will offer up a new batch of potential candidates for the Annual Event. So our advice is to get to your Dojo and Work Hard! You could be Next on the Floor!
IKKU KotoSu-Ha Shito-Ryu Promotions
Laurie Kazilionis: promoted to Godan and awarded a Renshi Shihan Title. Renshi Shihan’s original dojo was Fournier’s Leadership Karate Centers located in Maine which is run by Chief Instructor Kyoshi-Sei Anthony Fournier. Currently, Renshi Shihan trains regularly with Shihan Dai Connie Bond at Umi Kai Karateka Dojo while in Maine and while on the run for business travel, Renshi Shihan leverages the expertise of several of Soke’s senior instructors, which gives her a good diversity and understanding of training approaches and class content. Couple this with her existing high dan level experience and you have the makings of an excellent Renshi Shihan.
Ray Howard: promoted to Yodan and awarded a Renshi Sensei Title. Renshi Sensei studies directly under Chief Instructor Hanshi Ron Downton of Tora Shin Karate Kai located in Social Circle, GA. As well, Renshi Sensei Ray operates a small private dojo Ronin Bujutsu Kai located in Dallas, GA.
Jim McCarthy: promoted to Sandan and awarded a Renshi Title. Renshi studies directly under Chief Instructor Hanshi Ron Downton of the IKKU Hombu Dojo, Tora Shin Karate Kai located in Social Circle, GA.
Jonathan Malcom: promoted to Sandan and awarded the Renshi Title. Renshi studies directly under Chief Instructor Shihan Dai Mark Howard of Carolina Karate Kai located in North Augusta, SC. Renshi also serves as the Head Instructor at Carolina Karate Kai in North Augusta, SC.
Scottie Kight: promoted to Sandan and awarded the Renshi Title. Scottie studies directly under Chief Instructor Kyoshi Kim Blue of Suansu Karate Kai located in Dexter, GA. Renshi also serves as the Head Instructor at Suansu Karate Kai.
Ricardo McManus: promoted to Nidan and awarded the Sensei Title. Ricardo studies directly under Chief Instructor Shihan Dai Mark Howard and Head Instructor Renshi Jonathan Malcom of Carolina Karate Kai located in North Augusta, SC.
Tim Covington: promoted to Shodan. Tim studies directly under Chief Instructor Kyoshi Kim Blue and Head Instructor Scotti Kight of Suansu Karate Kai located in Dexter, GA.
Additional IKKU Information:
For information about joining the IKKU – International Karate Kobudo Union then please visit our IKKU Registration Page. We welcome new members to our organization and have 6-10 scheduled events each year. This will allow you direct access to Soke Joseph Ruiz, founder of the IKKU and other High Dan Instructors from the IKKU.
For a full listing of upcoming scheduled sessions please visit our Events Page. Here we showcase our upcoming Clinics, Camps and other opportunities for engagement with the IKKU.