This autumn we had visiting instructors Osaka Yoshiharu 8th Dan and Imamura Tomio 7th Dan, both from the Tokyo Sohonbu join JKA England’s Ohta Yoshinobu 7th Dan for our three day seminar.
Osaka Sensei’s Sochin class is always popular, especially with senior grades. It’s his signature kata and one that ensured he collected many international accolades in the 70s and 80s. He demonstrated with his usual humour, captivating those around him and moved with a smoothness, speed and power that belie his 69 years of age. He just seems to move better and better each time we see him.
Imamura Sensei’s approachable demeanour easily draws people in. Being in a relaxed teaching environment makes learning so much easier. He delivered an informative Chinte class that was easy for those unfamiliar with the kata but also provided the appropriate level of feedback for those needing to develop, with hints and tips for improving various parts of technique, timing and rhythm.
Ohta Sensei led a brilliant kihon and kumite session. One might imagine that eventually, they could get used to training under an instructor of such a high caliber but just when you think you might be ready for one of his sessions, he teaches something so inspiring in its creativity that it leaves everybody talking about it afterwards.
Sunday saw the dan grading where Shion from the club achieved his Shodan. His large support team, including Grandma who was on holiday, were all very proud of his achievement (cue lots of photos, hugs and high-fives). Well done!
We were extremely fortunate that, on this occasion, Imamura Sensei was able to spare the time to visit Shiranamikai in Stanmore to teach a special lesson for those hankering after an extra day’s tuition. More on that here…
These courses present an opportunity to learn from the best instructors in the world and train alongside some of the keenest members of the wider JKA community. This year saw another great autumn international course and we look forward to next year’s which will be held in spring and winter!
This year’s spring course was the biggest-attended JKA England gasshuku by far, and on the Saturday and Sunday, The K2’s huge sports hall was packed.
Our instructors for the weekend were Imamura Tomio 7th Dan and Shiina Mai 3rd Dan from the JKA Honbu, Omura Fujikiyu 7th Dan from JKA Thailand, and JKA England’s Ohta Yoshinobu 7th Dan. This year also saw instructors from JKA England’s technical committee teach for the first time at one of our international courses.
Training was organised slightly differently this time; basics and kumite was still in grade groups but after the halfway break, 3rd Kyu and above were able to choose which of the selected katas they wished to practise on each day. Beginners up to 4th kyu remained in their own group for Heian and Tekki Shodan katas.
Sensei Imamura and Sensei Omura have visited England before to teach, and their lessons this time were superb as expected. In contrast, Shiina Sensei was visiting the UK for the first time so there was much anticipation.
Her kumite drills reinforced the fact that there is no such thing as ‘basic’ kumite. Her timing changes kept everyone on their toes and her speed, power and technique really impressed. She finished off her session with touch-reaction training. It was clear how everybody, whilst trying their best, was enjoying it, making for a great atmosphere!
Training on the last day culminated with Ohta Sensei calling each kata in turn giving brown and black belts an opportunity to perform their favourite kata of the weekend in front of all present for final pointers and corrections.
On the Sunday there was a dan grading and congratulations go to Sonoko on passing her Shodan!
It wouldn’t feel like a proper gasshuku without a club side trip! This time we visited the Bluebell Railway, travelled on a steam train and then on to a local pub for a hearty dinner.
The next JKA England gasshuku runs from 11-13th September with Senseis Imura 7th Dan from Tokyo and Sawada 7th Dan from Belgium and Ohta Sensei from England.
This autumn, past World and All Japan Champion Shiina Katsutoshi 7th Dan and Sawada Kazuhiro 7th Dan from the JKA Europe Technical Committee joined Ohta Yoshinobu 7th Dan for the three day joint training camp in England.
There was a lot of kumite; investigating how it links into kata and vice versa. With an interesting take on Heian Yondan, Sawada Sensei demonstrated how the opening moves might be utilised to control an opponent during free-kumite. We practised this and parts from other forms in the same way; good to make one rethink our first katas and consider how to apply techniques in a more advanced way.
Shiina Sensei’s take on kata bunkai was involving to say the least! Many karateka have practised a kata against multiple opponents, but what captivated was how he linked techniques with such fluidity. Then, when back to the first attacker, it was another rotation but this time with ten free-kumite attacks.
On the first day, Shiina Sensei’s kata applications were for Heian Shodan. On the final day, Sochin! There was a great demonstration with the same ten free-attack kumite against a dozen-or-so opponents. Two members of the JKA England squad were first in the middle then Shiina picked out a slightly older, non-squad member to highlight a different approach. Their softer approach showed a great contrast in style but even so, they had left nobody standing!
Ohta Sensei gave us what has become his customary, in-depth kata lesson. Each course, he breaks down one particular form for practise. It’s not always immediately obvious which kata we’ll be doing until some time into basics and kumite. This time though it was Chinte and true to form, he broke it up into parts then pieced everything back together with ease. Just like a puzzle, it can seem easy when you first look at the finished article, but when yours is less than picture perfect, that’s when you realise how complicated it really is.
A dan grading followed training on Sunday and it was great to see club members Anju and Alex pass Shodan and Sandan respectively. Well done, both!
We had a good turnout from Shiranamikai students. It’s important to attend these courses – brown belts especially, for whom it is a JKA England requirement in order to grade – to train alongside members of other clubs and see the standard of the JKA members across England, Europe and worldwide who make the effort to pursue their pastime so dedicatedly.
Everybody enjoyed this excellent JKA England spring gasshuku which delivered a great mix of form, energy and education!
Visiting instructors Osaka Yoshiharu 8th Dan and Okuma Koichiro 6th Dan had travelled from the JKA Honbu in Tokyo while Nagatomo Yasuaki 6th Dan, Chief Instructor of JKA New Mexico flew in from the US. All three joined JKA England’s Ohta Yoshinobu 7th Dan for this popular international four-day training course.
Each instructor brought his own unique training methods but all four were distinctly JKA. Osaka Sensei broke kata into sections for repetition and allowed plenty of time to explain muscle engagement and to check body positions. Okuma Sensei brought strength and speed to kumite drills. He introduced a scientific approach by explaining body axis movement and correct breathing in order to harness one’s inner strength. Nagatomo Sensei’s friendly manner and encouraging feedback proved popular with many people. His off-balance/over-balance and take-down lesson was very interesting while his “now, eyes closed!” kumite left many people feeling on edge! Ohta Sensei did not disappoint either with his boundless energy and superb kumite lesson which used ideas from the kata Empi. The kicking drills incorporating ushiro mawashi geri were enjoyable too.
These international training camps are an invaluable way to learn and improve technique. Three hours goes by very quickly! It’s also a nice opportunity to get to know your fellow club members better and make new friends from neighbouring countries Norway and Germany or those farther afield like Israel and Canada!
The next international course will take place at the end of September with Ohta Sensei’s special guest instructors Shina Katsutoshi 7th Dan from the Tokyo Honbu and Sawada Kazuhiro 7th Dan from Belgium.
This autumn JKA England’s guest instructors were Ueki Masaaki 9th Dan and World Chief Instructor; Sawada Kazuhiro 7th Dan and Chief Instructor of the Sawada Academy in Belgium; Shimizu Ryosuke 5th Dan, Tokyo Headquarters Instructor and former All Japan Kumite Champion all alongside Ohta Yoshinobu 7th Dan and Head of JKA England.
Ueki Shihan started off the first day’s basics with somewhere in the region of 500 gyaku tsukis and mae geris to warm us up. “Ten more!” shouted Ohta Sensei enthusiastically just as everyone thought they were finished. With everybody clearly showing the strain, Ueki Shihan explained that this was typical practise for Honbu instructors: 25 would each count ten of a technique. The message behind his warm smile was clear – in budo, even when things get difficult, one should never give up. He kept a keen eye on everybody as he worked us through core Shotokan stances and basic partner work. An hour and a half seemed to pass quickly. Time for a five minute break.
Senior grades spent the second half of the day in the company of Sawada Sensei studying Nijushiho with lots of bunkai work. He had so much positive energy and showed a genuine enjoyment of karate that it was impossible not to be drawn in by his lesson.
On Saturday curtains were drawn straight after the warm up and 2nd Dan+ ushered back toward Sawada Sensei. He’d already told us the previous day we’d be practising Sochin but there was lots of preparation work including bunkai to get through beforehand. He focused on techniques suitable for use at three different distances – close, regular and far away. Hands first with ura zuki and hineri uke simultaneously; oi zuki with york ashi and uchi uke and stepping punch. Kicks followed: mikazuki geri from standing; mae geri off the back leg and keage geri delivered after spinning backwards and finishing with empi. When it finally came to moving through the kata at its regular count, it was with a much deeper, practical-led understanding.
After a five-minute break and quick catch-up with ‘Team Shiranami’, it was back into line. This time Shimizu Sensei was poised ready to deliver a multitude of drills. One example was defending using soto uke then countering with a barrage of empi techniques: sideways, around and rising. But for me his most memorable exercise was undertaken domino style within a group of three, turning inwards and punching gyaku tsuki while the next person blocked soto uke and so on. It was challenging and great fun! We wrapped up the session with Hangetsu.
On Sunday, the World Chief Instructor had a further test in mind for us. Given that many Nidan-graded karateka and above are instructors, he had decided to check our knowledge and technical ability. He called people out individually and asked them to explain or demonstrate various techniques. I was last to be called up. “Neko ashi dachi.” said Shuseki Shihan. In my own mind it seemed to be going ok, Sensei nodding occasionally as I explained and set my form. “The book says one foot length…” Shihan began, introducing a moment of unease, “…but I also do one and a half” he concurred to my relief. “What’s the most important point?” he asked. “Keeping the weight over the back leg.” was my reply. The cloth at the front of my dogi instantly became the target of an impeccably controlled mae geri. “Protect the groin!” he said grinning and we were surrounded by laughter. So, a little more inner tension then – in more ways than one!
Finally, well done to Will, Peter, Jeremy and Sheila who themselves underwent a gruelling test under Sensei Roy Tomlin and Gary Stewart of the JKA England Technical Committee. All four were successful in gaining their Coaching Licence!
It was apparent upon arrival at the Triangle Leisure Centre in West Sussex, that it was the same as the K2, just 20 minutes further south and just a bit smaller. It wasn’t long from once the course started until Ohta Sensei had us practising attacks and escapes linearly – stepping and sliding in a progressive gohon kumite. Kicks were delivered as non-linear ippon kumite with front, side and roundhouse; the defender blocking on escape, pulling back the front foot then using this shift energy to quickly switch legs and counter with the back foot. All exercises were driven by Sensei’s commanding shouts of “get out; get in; get away!”.
Angelo Sanna, JKA England Chief Referee gathered the 100-or-so attendees around as he demonstrated common referee motions and phrases of the type heard during competition. The idea was for everyone to listen, repeat and hopefully understanding what it all meant. Then it was mitts and gumshields ready for match practise.
Admittedly, it can be tricky to remember all the physical actions and words required for the different scenarios. Knowing what you want to say but having to remember the Japanese equivalent was just as difficult as spotting a score or deciding who, out of an exchange, was the first with an effective technique.
Finally, the people taking their dan grading later this month or in December, were asked to nominate a kata to focus on. This resulted in four groups for each of Bassai Dai, Kanku Dai, Jion and Sochin for half an hour of practise.
This was a very good course teaching distance and methods of attack, defence and counter attack. Crucially, it also served to provide all those present with an appreciation of judging and refereeing by observing scenarios from different perspectives whilst allowing some time for discussion.
Course (and AGM) over, it was time to join the heavy traffic on the M25. I stopped off at Cobham Services for a snack but after observing some people tucking in to their fast food, decided to just visit the conveniences instead.
We’re back here at the end of the month for JKA England’s Autumn Course.
We had a great turn out from Shiranamikai at this year’s JKA England Spring International Course. Sheila, Shivani & Dharvi joined their club instructors and attended all 4 days! Anju attended 3 days. We also had Will, Peter B, Lisa, Megan, Peter McE, Ryan, Tara, Sonoko, Anju, Jeremy, Evelyn, Sehar, Iman and Sara in attendance.
We were absolutely spoilt for high quality instruction, with JKA England’s Head of Association, Ohta Sensei joined by Aoki Sensei 7th Dan of JKA Spain and by a great cast from JKA Headquarters in Tokyo: Osaka Sensei 8th Dan; Hanzaki Sensei 7th Dan and Takahashi Sensei 6th Dan.
Aoki Sensei delivered a number of interesting sessions where fluid movement was the order of the day. He reminded everyone that karate power comes from relaxation, and that the movement on the inside of the body, is just as important as what we see on the outside.
Hanzaki Sensei taught us Sochin and Jitte. For the former kata, he showed us the importance of moving smoothly and using the muscles in the back of the body to make each position in fudodachi strong. As for Jitte, this was broken down in great detail, and we got some useful tips on how to execute the contrasting blocking sequences (in yama gamae and using bo uke) correctly.
Takahashi Sensei taught us Kanku Sho and Meikyo. He also delivered a kumite session on the final day where we focused on using yori ashi in attack and defence. This was the result of him having noticed, during the previous day’s Dan grading, that a lot of candidates were trying to overreach with their bodies, or struggling to maintain the correct distance, due to an inability to move their feet well. The drills were exhausting but brilliant.
As usual, Osaka Sensei encouraged us to have good posture and efficiency of movement. He is a great mimic, and his quizzical facial expressions and examples of ‘how not to do it’ always hammer the message home in a fun way. Osaka Sensei taught us Bassai Sho and Gojushiho Sho. For Bassai Sho, we got some great advice on how to execute the ashi barai and jodan uke sequence quickly but without losing balance.
On the Saturday, we managed to fit in a visit to Ashdown Forest Llama Park, which is about 25 minutes drive from the K2 Sports Centre where the course was being held. It was fun to meet Che (Austin’s lookalikey llama), Nicholas (the handsome male llama who was selected to be a model for the Llama Snacks packaging), as well as some alpaca and even reindeer. We didn’t see the reindeer fly, because they were of course saving up their energy for Christmas.
On the Sunday evening, we gathered at the Arora hotel for JKA England’s 10th Anniversary Party. This included a fun Sumo Competition, where teams from each nation wore inflatable sumo suits and Ohta Sensei refereed. A great time was had by all!
This year’s autumn course at the K2 Sports Arena in Crawley was action packed and technically detailed. JKA England’s Ohta Sensei 7th Dan was joined by two special guests: Ogura Sensei 7th Dan from JKA HQ Tokyo, and by Sawada Sensei 7th Dan of JKA Belgium. Here’s a little sample of what took place.
Sawada Sensei led the first session of the course. We worked on oi tsuki to start with, concentrating on losing unnecessary tension, using kime just at the end, and on launching techniques with length and speed. Then we worked on our Tekki kata. A series of exercises, including kiba dachi with yoko tsuki, illustrated how correct positioning of the feet is essential to the stability of this stance. We also concentrated on use of the abdomen to make power, and tried to free up those all too easy to tense shoulders. Drills using yoko empi and various blocking techniques in kiba dachi, with shifting, turning and speed changes, were exhausting but useful. Sawada Sensei’s session also included applications from Tekki 1, 2 and 3 plus some interesting discussion about the origins of Tekki. One idea is that its emphasis on attacks and blocks to the sides could be reflective of the days when warriors wore armour consisting of metal plates tightly laced together. With some of the joints left uncovered, the armour’s construction left the warriors more vulnerable to attacks from the sides.
Ogura Sensei, the kata coach for Japan’s JKA National Team, taught us a number of kata as the course progressed. These including Jitte, Bassai Dai, Tekki Nidan, Tekki Sandan, Sochin and Kanku sho. Kanku Sho lent plenty of opportunities to practise jumping, going to ground (ducking), and springing up. We didn’t quite manage the springing up part as energetically as Sensei, though there were plenty of comedic groans as we made our best efforts. In Jitte, Sensei showed us the importance of suppleness and strength to make the yama gamae (mountain posture) sequences towards the end, and demonstrated beautifully smooth timing changes for the bo uke section. In Sochin, we concentrated on showing the detail of each movement and on holding back the upper body, saving the release of energy until the focal point of our techniques.
Both Sawada Sensei and Ohta Sensei incorporated kumite drills into their sessions. Sawada Sensei taught us about the use of the back hand for the guard, as a means to exert pressure and of hiding attack. Working with a partner, we practised moving forward, tempting the opponent to attack, then blocking that attack early on and moving in to score first. Sensei reminded us that it’s not always necessary to back off when you are blocking. Ohta Sensei had us working on timing, reactions, coordination and distancing as he built up an initially simple but eventually tricky five step kumite sequence. With each step, our opponent increased the number of punches that we had to cope with. There was little or no thinking time between attacks, so crispness and reliance on natural reactions was the only way to stand a chance of keeping up.
There will be another JKA England International Course in May 2013. But before that, there are a number of special one day courses to look forward to, including on 1st December 2012 at Hatfield. You don’t have to be a black belt to attend, participants are split into groups according to their level, and the instruction is truly world class.
A great course at a lovely BIG venue with a NICE cafe!
JKA England Chief Instructor Ohta Yoshinobu 7th Dan was supported by Roy Tomlin 6th Dan, Gary Stewart 5th Dan and Adel Ismail 5th Dan.
Kyu grades enjoyed three separate sessions, one from each of Senseis Roy, Gary and Adel. Brown belts I think had the opportunity to practise Bassai Dai, Kanku Dai, Jion and Empi. Black belts were able to choose any kata from the above alongside other requests: Gojushiho Sho, Chinte, Sochin and Jitte. I occasionally glanced over to the other side of the hall at the kyu grade group and was reassured to hear the positive kiais of our young club members!
After each of the three sessions, Ohta Sensei had groups perform in turn the kata which they had just studied. It is nice for everybody to see the level of the association and to watch the different Shotokan kata. It’s difficult to focus when you have five senior instructors and hundreds of other students watching, but it is good to get used to this kind of pressure.
Just six present from Shiranamikai? Well, Shivani and Dharvi shot straight off to get changed. And we weren’t able to use the shots where I’d stepped into the frame for a picture – everybody had stopped smiling!
This Spring, visiting instructors Tsuyama Katsunori 8th Dan, Osaka Yoshiharu 8th Dan and Hirayama Yuko 6th Dan joined Ohta Yoshinobu 7th Dan for JKA England’s four day special international course.
Enroute to the K2, we hit heavy traffic because of someone’s caravan having swung across the motorway, so we had to take a detour along the A-roads and through some villages. We arrived at the sports centre just after the warm up and bowed straight in. While it was frustrating to arrive a bit late, at least the detour had allowed us to spot a few foodie pubs where we would be able to refuel between training sessions!
The four day course was, as always, carefully planned. Content from each day complimented the other sessions. Participants were split into groups according to grade with the course instructors rotating between the groups. For the sandan and above group, the first part of day one included repetitions of punches, mae geri and combinations of the two. These seem to be trademark basics of Tsuyama Sensei, who taught at the famous Takushoku University club for four decades. But as we all know, ‘basics’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘simple’ or ‘easy’. What we learned from these exercises regarding points to pay attention to was echoed over the next three days.
Both Senior Sensei; Tsuyama and Osaka were very specific about the quality of movement that more experienced karateka should be aiming for. For instance, each had us finishing a sequence with choku tsuki. We had to make sure we used the action of our ankle pushing the heel down onto the floor to direct the energy upwards through our legs, to our hips, body, arms and ultimately fists. Rather than simply dropping or falling into a stance both instructors wanted precise control, correct transfer of energy and the feeling of keeping the Jiku ashi and core active throughout the sequences.
Kata was reserved mainly for the second part of each day but the first session for sandan and above on Friday covered Bassai Dai and Jion with Osaka Sensei. We followed this in the second session with Hirayama Sensei’s Bassai Sho, a kata which has taken her to the final of the All Japan Championship and the Funakoshi World Cup on numerous occasions.
On Saturday, we studied Chinte and Gojushiho Sho with Ohta Sensei by request of those who were due to take a dan grading. Time was spent working through Chinte with detailed explanations and lots of bunkai partner work. Sensei highlighted the use of a variety of different circular movements in Chinte, before demonstrating this beautiful kata to us, with incredible control and smoothness.
Both Osaka Sensei and Hirayama Sensei are well known for being excellent exponents of the kata Sochin. With this in mind, I was hopeful, that we would get to study it at some point, and was not to be disappointed. Hirayama Sensei led us dynamically through Sochin on Sunday and we finished off by having two halves of the room divide and perform the kata in turn. What exactly Hirayama Sensei said afterwards is lightly disputed between Sasha and me, who were on opposing sides. Suffice to say we both think that our own side’s performance was preferred!
Sochin is characterised by its deep-rooted fudo dachi stance, powerful arm techniques and the contrast between slow and fast. The challenge is very much in maintaining smooth, controlled movements, keeping the heel down, back straight and rotating the hips.
Finally on the last day, we were back with Osaka Sensei for Gojushiho Dai, some wrong turns (er… by me) and a very achey left leg (me again).
There were some exciting kumite matches during the International Team Friendly Tournament on Saturday afternoon. Teams consisted of two female and three male competitors. The results were 1st place: England Team A, 2nd place: Norway, 3rd place: England Team B. But it wasn’t just the competitors who had their work cut out because Osaka Sensei and Hirayama Sensei were scrutinising the judges and referees as part of their JKA World Federation qualification test! Well done to all, I think!
There was a very good turn out from Shiranamikai over these four days (fifteen of us in all!) which was great to see. However, a special “well done!” goes to Sheila, Beth, Yassin and John who along with Sasha and myself, attended every possible day, receiving a special certificate at the end. I’m told that in total, there were around five hundred attendees over the four day period!
This year, there was even a buffet and party at the designated event hotel: Arora. Thankfully speeches were few and short but the highlights included a presentation to Mrs Chieko Buck and an impromptu (Norweigan) song by Geir Larson, Chief Instructor of Norway! A disco followed, where everybody had the opportunity to let their hair down and where Yassin could be found, right in the middle, for the majority of the evening!
This spring’s special course was a great event – everybody who I have spoken to since has said the same. I for one am very much looking forward to the next one.
Roll on, September!
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