Sensei Austin and I had our fingers crossed on 7th September, given that tube strikes were expected to cause transport mayhem. As it turned out, the majority of our group were able to arrive at the O2 in very good time for the special training and kyu grading with Ohta Sensei.
We started with the choku-tsuki (straight punch) in parallel stance, with special attention to using the core to create stability and also to tidy rotation of the forearms and fists. From there, we practised gedan-barai, with emphasis on hip twist. It wasn’t long before Sensei has us combine these techniques with the different kinds of transition needed for Kihon kata. Sensei confirmed that it is possible to understand a lot about a person’s karate ability just by seeing them perform Kihon. As straightforward as this kata may seem, a high skill level is needed to execute the different turning movements correctly and cleanly. It is a kata in which there is nowhere to hide!
The training moved on to incorporate further exercises to help students refine their basic movements as well as dissections of each of the Heian kata. We also enjoyed practising the kumite sequences for each grade, with Sensei encouraging us all to take care with the distancing and timing. It was an action-packed session requiring energy and mental focus. Sixth Kyu and above had to work particularly hard, staying on the dojo floor for the entire 90 minute training session and enduring a challenging exercise in pairs to develop strength, flexibility and targeting skills for the various kicks.
After a short break, students dug a little deeper to find stamina and concentration for the grading itself. There were a number of strong performances despite signs of a few nerves having crept in here and there. But what really stood out was the determination and spirit from each person to give his or her best.
Those who had taken the Kyu grading left with a change of belt colour and some positive comments from Sensei on how to improve further. Congratulations to all!