An Evening with Sensei James Field
by Patrick Dolly
On Friday June 16, 2006, my dojo, the Yeadon Shotokan Karate Club, was proud to host Sensei James Field, Chief Instructor of the Japan Karate Association of Santa Monica. Mr. Field is also the director of the ISKF Southwest Region. One of the first American graduates of the JKA Instructors Training Program, Sensei Field is also a former US and Pan-American champion.
Every year in June, Mr. Field visits Pennsylvania for the annual ISKF Master Camp. At this year’s camp, Mr. Field, who holds the rank of Nanadan (7th degree) had the distinction of being honored as the highest-ranking non-Japanese member of the ISKF.
On the day after camp ended, Mr. Field agreed to stop by our dojo on the night before he flew back to California. He generously agreed to teach an open class for our members who were unable to attend Master Camp.
Upon arrival, Mr. Field began by greeting all the students warmly and spent a brief period moving around the room and saying hello to everyone. Many of our members had never before trained with anyone other than our normal instructor staff. A few had even expressed to me some apprehension about what to expect from other instructors. Sensei Field’s kind and gracious demeanor made it the training experience very comfortable for everyone involved.
After bowing in, the class began with an in-depth stretching session. By the time we actually started training, everyone was already sweating. It seemed as though we had actually stretched every single muscle in our bodies.
There were about 30 people in the class and the ranks and ages ranged from new beginners to rokudan, and child to grandparent. Sensei Field concentrated the majority of the class on kihon and combinations. As an instructor, I found this class to be especially useful. While the drills Mr. Field had us practicing were challenging and enjoyable, it was the concepts that he spoke about that really hit home. Sensei Field has a way of expressing the concepts of Shotokan Karate in manner which is easily understood by almost everyone.
Sensei spent a considerable length of time discussing blocking techniques. One of the standout topics of the class was the explanation of shuto-uke (knife hand block.). Mr. Field stressed that before executing the block, the blocking hand must chamber fully at the ear. The importance of the chambering position was stressed by interpreting it as a blocking motion. Mr. Field used the chambering position as a sweeping block across the face, then using the subsequent blocking motion as a knife hand strike.
Mr. Field also spent time discussing the importance of all techniques reaching their natural end. Sensei Field stated that the longer a technique travels, the more time it has to gain momentum and power. Techniques should never be short-changed. When punching, the arm should come to a stop on its own, before it begins to travel backwards.
Sensei ended our training session with one of his favorite jiyu-kumite techniques. The technique used the rear hand to bring down your opponents lead hand with a pressing block while driving in with jodan kizami-zuki. While it is a very simple motion, its effects are can be devastating with proper timing.
After the training was finished, everyone changed clothes and headed over to a small Italian restaurant within sight of the Philadelphia skyline, for a good meal, cold beer, and some good laughs. Sensei Field shared lots of stories and answered many questions over dinner.
After dinner, Mr. Field said goodbye and headed back to his hotel to get some sleep before his early morning flight home. The group from our dojo (myself included) on the other hand headed down the street to a local drinking establishment for some “special training”, while we discussed the night’s events. It was agreed upon by everyone in our training group that we will take every opportunity that comes our way to train with Sensei Field again.
To find out more about Sensei James Field see www.jkasm.com