Dojinmon Wado-ryu Dojo, Porto Alegre, Brazil visit report
Dojinmon Dojo is a Wado-ryu dojo located in the very nice area of Porto Alegre, Brazil is run by Prof, Nelson d’Avila Guimarães. He is 5th Dan Wado-Ryu Karate-Do Renmei (Japão) and 6th Dan Confederação Brasileira de Karate.
This was my first visit at a Wado-ryu dojo ever. I was very excited to visit a Wado-ryu dojo because I was very curious to find how similar Wado-ryu training to that of Shotokan. Of course, you cannot have a conclusive opinion by visiting only one dojo but my curiosity was very high.
First of all, the visit was not planned until a week ago. One of my Facebook friends, Fabricio Bertoluci found that I was visiting Porto Alegre in November. We decided to meet on November 3rd to simply talk about karate. I am a karate nerd so I welcome any opportunity to meet another karateka. Until I met him I did not realize that he is a Wado-ryu practitioner. I found him to be very dedicated and interesting person. I enjoyed our meeting and we discussed many different subjects including the benefit and the harm of weight lifting, health benefit of karate related to the physical and/or mental patients, etc. Fabricio is going through a physical therapy because he injured his knees so he had his experience to those subjects. In addition, he is a college student right now and studies physio therapy and sport medicine in his college study so his opinion was backed by the modern medical and science background which made our conversation more interesting.
During the meeting I mentioned that I had never visited a Wado-ryu dojo and Fabricio invited me to visit his dojo. Of course, he had to check with his sensei and get his permission first so he could not promise a visit on that day. After a few days later he received the permission so I visited his dojo, Dojinmon Dojo on November 10th. It is located in the central part and a residential area of Porto Alegre. The dojo has a very nice front and a house converted hall (see the photo above). It was very clean and well organized. It was very pleasing as I did not see many trophies and other junks that are common in many other dojos I have visited before. I met Shihan Nelson Guimarães, the chief instructor and found him to be a confident and courteous individual.
This set the tone and all the practitioners there gave me a warm welcome to my visit.
The class started at 18:00 and they did intensive warm up exercises which lasted more than 20 minutes. This was conducted by the assistant instructor, Diego Tamagnone sensei. I was a little surprised that they started the warm up exercises without a line up ritual but I discovered that they do this after the warm up exercise. After the warm up Shihan Nelson got on the floor and joined the group. They did the line up ritual which was very similar to the one we, Shotokan dojos do and started the training. There were about a dozen students at first but many late comers joined the class as it progressed. At the end there were about twenty students, mostly senior ranks (brown belt and above) but there were some beginners and intermediate students. They wore blue and green belt but I could not tell their kyu level. It was a mix class and all of them followed the same menu.
The actual training time was about 45 minutes long and they spent half of the time on kihon. Most of the techniques they practiced were very similar to ours. As I suspected I did not see yoko keage though they practiced gedan kekomi. They used sanchin stance when they practiced punching in a still stance. In the idogeiko (practicing with body shifting) they used zenkutsu, kokutsu and kiba dachi. I do not recall if they used neko ashi dachi. They may use it but did not see it in the kihon keiko. One big difference I noticed in the kihon keiko is that they have an irimi tsuki in which you lean your upper body forward in a sharp hanmi position as you deliver a punch. They also practiced a lot of gedan level punches, haito uchi and teisho uchi. I heard that Shihan Nelson believes in bujutsu type of karate rather than sport karate thus they practice those techniques.
After kihon, they did kumite practice with ippon kumite. I was impressed that they did not do the common combination we see in a shotokan dojo; jodan age uke and chudan gyaku zuki. They did jodan nagashi uke and the counter was various including uraken, enpi and as suspected a throw. They started with ippon zuki (one punch) attack then move to nihon zuki (two punches) attack exercise in which an opponent would block those two punches before giving a counter. I found their kihon kumite techniques are closer to bunkai. I am also pleased to see that they did not do the sanbon and gohon kumite which are very popular in the shotokan dojos.
The last part was, of course, kata. They use the old names for their kata as Otsuka, the founder of Wado-ryu departed Funakoshi before Funakoshi changed the kata names to the Japanese names. For instance they practice Kanku dai but they called it Kushanku. I did not consider the name matter important but I just wanted to include this in the report. They practiced several katas in addition to Kanku dai including Bassai dai and Tekki shodan. They looked similar to our katas and very recognizable. However, the differences were notable also. I do not say they were better or worse but simply I believe their katas were closer to what Funakoshi brought from Okinawa. In other words they (Wado-ryu) kept the katas closer to what Funakoshi taught in the early 2th century. On the other hand, for the Shotokan group there was a big change brought by Yoshitaka, Funakoshi’s son as well as the influence by Nakayama. These two senseis brought the larger movements of the arms and the legs as well as the lower stances. So, studing the Wado-ryu katas is an excellent reference if you wish to see the katas before the changes or closer to the original forms.
I was surprised that Shihan Nelson allowed me to share some of the Asai karate ideas. He asked me to spend 10-15 minutes to share something with his students. So, I changed to my gi and had a very informal session without any rituals. After my self introduction I covered the concept of the three requirements that are needed to build a strong karate. The three requirements are flexibility, balance and strong legs. I picked two or three typical exercises to train those three points. Due to the short time we did only 10 or 20 times of each exercise. I did not think the students got tired but at least I hope they could get an idea how they work. The exercises were the only thing I could cover and could not go into any of the Asai techniques. I was impressed that the students were more flexible and coordinated than the average practitioners. I hope what I covered was something new and beneficial. I look forward to receiving the feedback from the students.
At the end of the session we took a group photo (below). Shihan Nelson was nice enough to invite me back when I visit Porto Alegre next time. I am very happy to make many new karate friends at this dojo and also that this connection can be the beginning of my karate network in Porto Alegre. Muito obrigado ao Prof. Nelson e todos os seus alunos.
I want to emphasize that my observation of the training at Dojinmon is not complete nor conclusive. I was with two other visitors and my attention to the training was disrupted several times so I might have missed many things in their syllabus. If you happen to find any negative remarks in my report it was not my intention to criticize Wado-ryu or Dojinmon. I only have the total respect to both. My intention in my report is always to compare and learn. I hope the readers will find the same.