Tag Archives: Sensei Ota

O’Brian Sensei: Twitching & Dropping Center

This weekend during training, our group was discussing the idea of dropping your centre.  In the video above, O’Brian Sensei talks a bit about the sensation of dropping your centre and how it relates to quick, movements.

Sometimes, it can be hard to articulate ideas about how a sensation feels – it’s a personal thing really; sometimes it’s hard to describe.

I was wondering the other day about the best way to describe ‘twitching’ and dropping.  The two are linked, with dropping being a result of twitching.

So what is twitching anyways – as it relates to Karate?  One explanation that I came up with is:  Have you ever fallen asleep on the couch during the day?  You know – maybe it’s a nice summer day and the sun is shining in your living room while you’re sitting on the couch.  You suddenly feel a bit sleepy and decide to take a nap.  I’ve noticed that sometimes this sort of sleep can be deep, but a bit restless – like you’re asleep but half awake at the same time.  Have you ever had a dream whilst napping this way?  The dreams can sometimes be so vivid.  I remember in one dream that for whatever reason I felt as though I needed to flail my arm.  Only thing was I actually flailed my arm – so hard I jolted myself out of my nap!  The sensation that I felt was like I was instantly awake – and my arm had some sort of knee-jerk reaction.  That’s the twitch sensation.  Not sure if anyone can relate, but if you can then great.  That sort of instant-on, muscle twitch movement is a little like what we’re trying to achieve when we do our techniques.  Notice in the video of O’Brian sensei how he kind of ‘twitches’ when he turns in his stance.  The movement is not stiff and ridged.  It’s more of a quick twitch-like reaction.  It starts in your core (abdomen) and the block is just an end result of an action that was started by your core muscles twitching.

This method can be applied to pretty much every technique we do.  Granted, it can be harder to do when kicking – but it is possible and just like anything else, it needs practice.

We should be working towards this kid of technique.  It’s faster while being more relaxed and you can twerk your movement, adding KIME at any time.

Have fun!

Sensei Pennell.





Eihachi Ota – Core Strength

Eihachi Ota demonstrates a powerful Bo Kata.

Sensei Ota’s use of core strength to generate velocity is perhaps his greatest trait.  You can see how his stances (which are generally low and wide), help him to control his balance, etc., while he delivers effective strikes – and it’s safe to say that he leverages “winding up”.  Here is another video of a ‘Shiru Taro No Kon’ Bo Kata that he performed for a small audience at Phillip’s Karate Dojo in Whitby Ontario Canada several years ago.  Capturing the entire Kata in one frame – from a greater distance helps to better visualize Ota’s use of core strength to deliver effective strikes.  Make no mistake about it – Ota’s delivery of powerful technique is unique among many of his Okinawan colleagues.

4 Ways to improve your Karate!

1. You don’t need to “move like they do”.  Karate has evolved quite a bit since Karate practitioners of yesteryear were first captured on film or motion picture.  A lot has changed.  In fact, entire fields of study, like sports medicine for example, have been invented since the old masters practiced their art.  These days, we have a much better understanding of the relationship between muscles and tendons.  We have scientific understanding of the relationship between velocity and “power”.  So, what does all of this mean?  Well, it means that as a Karate student, you don’t necessarily have to take your queues from the great masters.  There is plenty of theory in sports medicine and training dynamics to help guide you.  You have access to tons of resources online.  You should be “stealing” bits of relevant information from practitioners of all martial arts.  Don’t be afraid to experiment.

2. You have gifts – use them.  Everybody has a unique body.  Different heights, weights, flexibility, speed, etc., etc., etc.  The great thing about Karate, is that you can maximize your strengths.  Talk with your Sensei about what your natural abilities and strengths are.  Perhaps you’re not utilizing your long legs for example.  Remember, Okinawan Karate was first practiced by Okinawan people.  They tend to be shorter in stature and more “compact” than North Americans for example.  So, you may need to take a look at the way an Okinawan moves vs. how you move and understand the differences.  There is nothing wrong with leveraging your strengths.  Find out what they are – and use them in your Karate.

3. Karate does not need to be “all you do” for exercise.  Karate can be an amazing exercise tool.  It essentially works all aspects of the body – muscle, tendon, cardio-vascular, etc., but it’s not the “be all and end all” of exercise.  I would recommend a mixed-bag of exercise activities to round out your training.  Myself, I like to combine Karate with weight lifting, hockey (to work the cardio-vascular system) and other sports like soccer or even rock climbing.  You’ll notice that as you build strength doing other activities, it’ll have a positive impact on your Karate as well.  Remember, have fun!

4. If it’s too bad to be true, it probably ain’t. Are you looking around your fellow karate-ka and thinking, “There’s got to be more to karate then this!” Is the instruction lacking? Are you endlessly grinding through Kata, with no real signs of improvement? Does your instructor keep looking at the time? Well guess what – you’re probably training at a “McDojo“. Yep – but now you know, so the question is – what are you going to do about it? What you need is an instructor that inspires you. Someone who gets to know you and you abilities and can offer constructive feedback that’s relevant to you. And from where did your instructor receive his black-belt? In a “Mc” world, it’s truly buyer beware. You need to do your research, people! Try to find out if your instructor has ever competed or if his/her instructor has. Were any awards received? If so, what are they? And no – random certificates on the wall don’t count. What do other students say? There are plenty of reviews on line. Ask your instructor, “how long to get my black-belt?” If their response is anything less than 5-7 years – move on. OR, if they quickly start talking about monthly plans, starter packages, costs, specials, incentives, or anything like that – move on!

Ota Seminar June 2015 – A New Perspective

Sensei Pennell, Sensei Ota. June 2015

Sensei Eihachi Ota. His story is extraordinary and his influence is being felt all over the world. From his humble beginnings in Okinawa, to his growing number of followers world-wide, Ota has proven that the true essence of powerful Karate technique stems from an intimate understanding of body mechanics. And when it comes to body mechanics, no detail is too small. Every knuckle, every toe, every muscle fiber is manipulated to generate the enormous amount of energy required to deliver what can only be described as magnificent feats of human strength, speed and ultimately what all Karate students crave – power.

If you haven't heard of Sensei Ota, take note – because the rest of the world has. In fact, it was announced at his June 2015 seminar in Gardena California that the Okinawan government has honoured Sensei Ota by bestowing upon him the title of 10th Dan. This is truly a rare display of appreciation from the Okinawa and is not recognition that is to be considered lightly. Indeed, Ota's promotion to 10th Dan is a reflection of his dedication to the proliferation of Shorin-Ryu Karate the world over and his continuing efforts to spread the teachings of Shorin-Ryu country by country, seminar by seminar.

Seminar attendees were in for a special treat this year. Also attending the seminar all the way from Okinawa was Sensei Shiroma – long time colleague of Ota and kubodo expert. Students were fortunate to receive direct instruction from one of Okinawa's most respected kubodo practitioners. Must of Saturday's seminar was spent learning the traditional ways of the Bo, Tonfa and Sai.

Ota himself demonstrated what can only be described as an epic display of Bo manipulation. Ota has spent a lifetime perfecting his body dynamics and it shows – each display of power was born of blistering speed – Ota's trademark. The way that Ota twists body and leverages his limbs can only be described as completely unique. It's interesting to note that Bo kata delivered by Ota is quite different from Bo we're traditionally accustomed to. Focusing on velocity and maximum strength strikes, Ota has indeed re-invented the why Bo should be practiced.

So what's next for Ota remains to be seen. Certainly Okinawa's recognition of Ota's dedication to Karate is a game changer. And now that Okinawa itself is striving to streamline and align it's Karate heritage through various programs and initiatives, Ota finds himself at the center of what could be the next chapter of Okinawan martial arts.