Many people do online classes, but these are usually pre-recorded videos. If you have questions, you have to type them in on your key board and wait on the teacher getting back to you. And if you don’t fully understand their answer, you have to send another question and wait again.
Furthermore, the teacher can’t actually see how you are doing things yourself, so can’t pick up on fine details that you may not even know to ask about.
This is why I was quite intrigued when I heard about Shihan Kousaku Yokota’s idea for an Interactive Cyber Dojo.
So what is an Interactive Cyber Dojo?
I’m glad you asked me that!
Basically, it’s a lesson over Skype with video, one on one with Shihan Yokota himself. A private lesson with a genuine Japanese 8th Dan, author and direct student of Asai (10th Dan) himself . . . . . well I just had to give this a go.
My first hiccup was that I did not have a webcam on my PC. No problem, I borrowed my daughters Apple Mac, and we were off.
The lesson was on the kata, Junro Shodan. This is a kata created by Master Asai and is part of Asai Ryu version of Shotokan Karate. It is not in other versions of Shotokan, so this was of particular interest to me.
Master Asai introduced the Junro series for a couple of reasons. One reason being to put more emphasis on the Neko Ashi Dachi (Cat Stance). This stance was widely used in Shorin Ryu which was the main forerunner to Shotokan, but has been almost completely replaced in most Shotokan Katas by the longer Kokutsu Dachi (Back Stance). Master Asai felt that we should bring it back as it is a very practical stance from a combat point of view which we have nearly lost due to standardisation of Katas, largely for competition purposes.
Master Asai also felt that when it comes to spinning techniques, most Shotokan katas have a heavy bias to only spinning clockwise and wanted to address this imbalance. You can check out the Junro Shodan for yourself below:-
Master Asai is considered by many to be the greatest Shotokan teacher and practitioner that ever lived. This is why very many Shotokan Karateka from other organisations and lineage’s have been interested in learning his katas. Unfortunately many of these people do not have access to a dojo which practices the Asai Ryu version of Shotokan.
After a student in New York persuaded Shihan Yokota to try to teach him over Skype from California, Shihan Yokota realised that he could use this method to reach and help many other Shotokan Karateka (and other styles if interested) from all over the world. Those interested in learning Asai Ryu Shotokan and the Junro series of katas no longer had to be limited by physical location.
So having made the appointment, Shihan Yokota, he sent me the Youtube link to Junro Shodan (above) along with a step by step pictorial schematic so that I could prepare myself in advance. For a few hours before my class, I went through the kata, learning it from the video. By the time it came to the class, I was still far from perfect, but more or less had the sequence of movements. Throughout the class, Shihan Yokota corrected my stances and movements and picked up details that I would never have got from following the video alone.
As I reflected afterwards, this was a fantastic way to learn. Had I attended a seminar to learn this kata, firstly I would not have received the link to the video and step by step guide. OK, I could have used my initiative and Googled it, or searched it on Youtube, but you can never be quite sure how truly authentic the version displayed will actually be.
Had I gone to a seminar, I might have had to travel for several hours to get there and back. This time was much better spent pre-learning the kata from Youtube.
Furthermore, had I been at a seminar, I would have been one of many, moving at the pace of the rest of the class; rather than having one on one attention for an hour from an 8th Dan and the class moving at the right pace for me and me only.
Being at home, I was a bit limited for space and often had to shuffle around a bit to fit in all the movements. However, I felt that all the other advantages far out-weighed this minor disadvantage. As far as I’m aware, nobody else is doing this. I’m sure many will follow, but for now I believe that it is unique.
So how much does this one-on-one with an 8th Dan actually cost?
Well if you were meeting face to face, then the standard rate would be $150 per hour. However, through Shihan Yokota’s Interactive Cyber Dojo, it is a very reasonable $29.99. When you consider that sometimes you can pay almost as much to attend seminar and be one of about 50 or more people with no one on one, this is a really good deal. Plus you have no travel costs, no parking charges, no food or drink to buy while you’re out and being via Skype there are no extra computer/telephone costs either. For many people, this is actually cheaper all round then going to a seminar. I personally think that Shihan Yokota is being a bit cautious and setting his rate a bit low, so I’d recommend that anybody who is interested should book in quickly before he catches on and puts his rate up.
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Bonus: Historical look at Bassai Dai, one of Karate’s most pivotal katas