On Tuesday 5th April we held the first of our 2011 special training sessions with Ohta Sensei.
As usual, everyone dug deep into their energy reserves and enjoyed a challenging class.
After the training, we held the club kyu grading which saw all candidates successful in moving up to the next level. On the day we had run out of time for the group photo – so the above shows students at the next class.
With a number of exciting events in the club calendar as we move through spring and on to the rest of the year, now is a great time to get set up for your next karate goal.
With sword fighting, drumming and magic tricks on the programme, it might well have been the script for a Takeshi Kitano film.
You would also have been forgiven for thinking that the competition had taken place in France as they had by far, the largest supporter! But the reality was that this was in Crawley, Sussex. England was playing host to the 2011 JKA European Championship.
Jörgen Bura, JKA Europe Technical Director delivered the opening message and initiated a one minute silence out of respect for those affected by the earthquake in east Japan.
Then the event was underway.
Elimination rounds for individual kata were first, followed by team kata, individual kumite and team kumite. After a break for stage assembly, all the competitors entered the arena while a live drumming performance took place. We then experienced a demonstration of medieval sword and stave fighting with Robin Hood and Shakespeare characterisations, before getting back on track with the finals.
There were some exciting performances. Of particular note was the male cadet team kumite where some lightening quick scoring by Serbia helped to secure first place. A member of the Norweigan team showed great spirit and technique during his kumite matches and went on to take gold. The England female cadet team performed a sharp Unsu, missing out on gold by a mere 0.1 point!
It was great to see the JKA England squad competing amongst the best in Europe and with competitors evenly matched in so many face-offs, a number of the bouts could have gone either way. Although the largest contingent, Germany, clearly dominated the results tables, JKA England have proved its high standards on the world stage, finishing joint 3rd place with Italy in the medals table overall – out of the 21 nations who took part.
If you didn’t make it to the event, there is a DVD in production which should be ready to buy within the next couple of weeks (we’ll post an update once it is released). With performances of all the Heian katas and Tekki Shodan, Bassai Dai, Kanku Dai, Jion and Empi, plus a variety of kata being performed as choices for the finals, it might be a useful reference aid. The kumite should also prove exciting!
Overall medal ranking:
1. Germany – 12
2. Serbia & Belgium – 7 each
3. England & Italy – 6 each
4. Hungary – 5
Top three gold medal winners:
1. Germany – 5
2. Hungary – 4
3. England, Sweden, Czech Republic, Belgium, Norway, France & Serbia – 1 each
The next international karate event is the JKA Junior European Championship to be held on 23rd-25th May 2011 in the Netherlands. Then three months later, the 2011 JKA World Championship (12th Funakoshi Gichin Cup) will be held on 18th-21st August in Thailand.
Two hours of sensible driving brought us to Bath University for three hours training.
As usual, Ohta Sensei led us through some very challenging basics, emphasising how the whole body moves with a technique and how this can best be applied in different directions. Then partner work, defending against a range of different punches and kicks.
After a water break, we were split into several groups. Sensei kept the dan grades together for more kumite: one combination involved twisting the body with a punch to make distance, an accent punch mid step and yet another punch to finish. The key was in the rhythm and the timing – breaking the rhythm but keeping the timing.
Sensei also explained different ways of moving and the trends being seen among the younger generation of JKA kumite champions in Japan.
After telling us we could counter with any technique in response to one particular combination, Sensei demonstrated using mawashi geri AND ushiro mawash geri (both jodan). This was seemingly effortless as always, with perfect technique and a big smile! (Like most of the other participants, I had to keep it simpler.)
After some more water (lots, actually) and a banana, came kata. Groups were subdivided yet again for Heian through to Tekki, Bassai Dai, Jion, Empi, Nijushiho and Bassai Sho.
So there goes another great course. One pizza (each) later and we’re back in the car, on the way home. Unfortunately, the nice looking ice cream farm and tearoom which we saw on our way in was closed by the time we made our way out of Bath. No matter – you can’t beat the motorway service stations…
With only a few sleeps until Christmas Day we managed to fit in Keiko Osame (the last training of the year) followed by a club grading! As usual, Ohta Sensei gave us an excellent workout during the special training session.
While the grading saw all students being awarded the next level, the results were by no means a foregone conclusion. Sensei highlighted some development points which we will be sure to work on together in 2011.
This year there was also a special club prize for dedication to karate, and this went to Connor, someone who stands out as having put considerable effort into his karate over the past year. We look forward to seeing continued progress from everyone next year – with the club re-opening on 8th January. In the meantime have a refreshing Christmas break!
Takushoku Daigaku Karate Club (or ‘Takudai’ for short) is renowned for the intensity and quality of its practice. This Japanese university club has produced numerous champions and JKA instructors. At the December course in Hatfield we were fortunate to have a special visitor present in Tsuyama Katsunori Sensei 8th dan – the head karate coach of Takushoku, a director of the Japan Karate-do Federation and special advisor to JKA.
Takudai can count JKA England’s very own Ohta Sensei 7th dan among its alumni. We were spoilt for quality in that he was also delivering instruction at this course. In addition, Tsuyama Sensei was ably assisted by Richard Heselton 4th dan, who hails from Yorkshire in the UK but who has lived in Japan since 1995. Richard Sensei captained the Takudai club from 2002-2004 and was this year’s 3rd place winner for Kumite at the JKA All Japan Championships. The more observant might also have spotted Richard Sensei appearing as one of the baddies in the karate movie ‘High Kick Girl’ !
We started off by practising kihon (basic techniques) together, progressing from single techniques to longer combinations. Then participants were split into groups according to grade. Tsuyama Sensei and Richard Sensei led the Dan grades through kumite drills, after which there was an opportunity to focus on kata. Those who were participating in the dan grading due to take place later in the day had chosen to perform Bassai Dai, Jion, Empi and Niijushiho. Therefore, each senior instructor was allocated one of these kata and asked to lead a group. Kyu grades were taught separately and practised kata from the Heian series.
After the course had concluded, it was rather tempting to pop to nearby Hatfield House to inspect some fine examples of Jacobean craftmanship. Or, let’s be honest now – perhaps the bright lights of the Hatfield Galleria shopping centre were even more appealing. But we decided to forego these delights and instead stayed back at the sports complex for awhile to watch the dan grading, which provided a useful insight for our kyu grades.
This year’s Kyu Grade Championship was held at the Guildford Spectrum Leisure Complex. With this being the regular venue for the annual JKA England special courses in spring and summer, it was familiar territory. A few of us met bright and early at what is becoming our usual table in the Costa coffee bar before grabbing some seats in the main arena. We then took time to affix competitor labels, try out the mats together and settle a few nerves.
The Shiranamikai representatives were Sheila, Rupert, Peter, Parth, Danny, Mo, Connor and Jeremy. All made us proud, through giving their best efforts on the day and through the dedication they had put into training for the event. For most of the group this was a first experience of taking part in karate competition. It was also nice to have a few supporters in attendance.
Adult purple belts Sheila, Rupert and Peter were in a difficult field, with some very experienced karateka being positioned in this category. Our bunch distinguished themselves with clean technique and excellent posture. With the benefit of experience and knowledge of what to expect, I am sure we will see this group go from strength to strength in future events.
Parth (green to purple belt age 9-11 category) performed a solid Heian Nidan in the first round of kata but unfortunately missed a kiai which may well have cost him the match. In kumite he reached best 8 and narrowly missed out on a place in the finals. Well done Parth – a big improvement on last year.
Yellow belt Danny (orange to yellow belt age 13-15 category) made his way through the kata elimination rounds in style with a powerful Heian Shodan, earning a place in the finals. However, a missed kiai point in an otherwise strong Heian Sandan unfortunately cost vital points leaving him in fourth place. In kumite, Danny came away with a Bronze medal. Bravo Danny!
Red belt Mo (adult orange to yellow belt category) gave spirited performances in both kata and kumite, making his way through a couple of rounds in each. “That bloke’s actually quite good!” said an onlooker watching Mo perform. Yes, we know! But unfortunately the decision did not go Mo’s way.
Our orange belts Jeremy (also competing in the adult orange to yellow belt category) and Connor (orange to yellow belt age 13-15 years category) should feel proud of how they performed. Connor’s nice long stances and Jeremy’s much improved posture were a pleasure to see.
We had a feeling that we might pick-up a little bit more metalware this year, with a number of competitors looking sharp and strong in the elimination stages. But despite the team displaying technique and spirit in abundance, it wasn’t to be. Nevertheless, everyone came away with something valuable: an improvement to be proud of and the ambition to do even better in the future. We look forward to seeing everyone continue to develop. Well done to all!
According to Wikipedia, Walton on Thames was used as the location for a number of Monty Python sketches filmed during the 1970s. I’d like to think that this might have included the “Self Defence Against Fresh Fruit” sketch, in which John Cleese advises a group of martial arts students on how to deal with unorthodox attacks.
Rolling forward to the year 2010 and the 24th of October, the combination of fruit and martial arts could again be found in Walton on Thames, specifically at the JKA All Grades Course held at the Elmbridge Excel Leisure Complex. However, on this occasion the bananas and dried mango slices were strictly for snack use only. After all, when you are exerting yourself with an intensive session of kihon, kata and kumite, you need all the energy you can get.
The 1st hour’s worth of training was led by Ohta Sensei and other JKA England instructors assisted with the teaching as the afternoon progressed. The acoustic in the room made it a little difficult to hear all the instructions, but as usual it was possible to learn a lot from Sensei’s fluid demonstration of how to use the hips, ankles and body weight efficiently. For 9th to 4th Kyu students, there was a chance to practise the kata and sparring sequences that will be needed for the forthcoming JKA England Kyu Grades Championship. A feature of the training for those from 3rd to 1st Kyu was a chance to practise katas Empi and Jion, providing a refreshing change from Bassai Dai.
We had an enjoyable day training together at this course. Well done to all who attended!
P.S. As for the topic of ‘Self Defence Against Fruit’, those who are interested to learn more can take part in a virtual lesson via this link.
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!
On Saturday morning at John Lyon Sports Centre, we were very lucky to be visited by the current JKA European Karate Champions: Roisin, Rachel and Jana.
At this year’s Championship held in Bochum, Germany, the three took European Gold in the Junior Ladies Team Kata event. Roisin also won Gold in Individual Junior Ladies Kumite and Silver in Junior Ladies Individual Kata, while Jana won Bronze in Individual Junior Ladies Kumite.
Roisin led the class stretch at the beginning and we stayed together through a selection of kihon-waza until everybody was warmed-up. Then our guests each led a group through kata. With the club grading coming up in 3 days time, this was a great opportunity to pick up some helpful pointers from some very talented, young karate-ka.
At the end of the class, Roisin, Rachel, Jana and Sensei Jeni each performed their own favourite katas: Sochin, Nijushiho, Gankaku and Chinte. All were impressive, but judging by the gasps of excitement from the audience, the most favoured part of the morning was a demonstration of the winning team kata, Unsu. With its assortment of fast and slow techniques and a dramatic 360 degree aerial manoeuvre towards the end, this is one of the most demanding kata in the Shotokan repertoire.
A special thanks to all our guests for taking the time to come and visit our club, and the very best of luck to Roisin, who left the UK for Japan the very next day, to further her karate training at JKA Honbu dojo in Tokyo.