I was a young Shodan, teaching a program for youth, and competing regularly in Pennsylvania. I was on my own.
Now I never heard this from my instructors, they didn’t talk about training, they trained. But somewhere I picked up a strength of the Isshinryu system was that our higher stances made us more mobile than say the deeper system stances like in Shiotokan.
Maybe it was from some magazine article, but the idea stuck in my head.
One of the competitors I went against regularly was Tristan Sutrisno. At that time I only know of him from forms competition. He was from outside the US and he would perform an absolutely brilliant form only to always mess up on the last movement. To be honest I was never that good.
Then one Saturday outside the gym we were chatting about stuff. It really had not registered he was a Shotokan stylist.
So the time came when I waxed philosophically about the superiority of Isshinryu stances versus Shotokan stances.
He just replied, “Well….”
Exploded back into a Shotokan Zenkatsu Dachi (The Shotokan Deep Front Stance), and fast as lightening threw a front kick ending at my mouth. There was a grin across his face.
“So our stances make us slower?”
I learned a great lesson in humility that day.
To put it in perspective Tristan was Indonesian. He immigrated to the US to marry here. He was trained from age 4 by his father, who had studied under Funakoshi Sensei at the Naval War College in the 1930s,, along with 1930s Aikido studies, kobudo and Indonesian Tjimande.
After about a year of competition the day came and he no longer made that mistake, and he began to dominate his divisions.
Then one day he showed up with a staff. I remember judges trying to discourage him competing so as not to disgrace himself, for everyone knew Shotokan did not do weapons. That was the start of his dominance in Kubudo. Of course at tournaments they only saw a very small set of what he practiced.
He was also very skilled in Kumite, which was interesting because he didn’t teach kumite in his classes.
His ‘bunkai’ was also extremely interesting as the paradigm he used was not what others do. Something others outside his friends and students did not see.
He was one of the quickest individuals I ever met. He had an incredible set of drills and kata bunkai using a different paradigm than anyone else I have ever seen.
I shared what he chose to show with me for a decade till distance made that impossible.
I learned a real lesson that day, Never assume, for when you assume,….