School summer holidays often bring, for some, the prospect of six weeks of inactivity. This year I decided to offer some relief from boredom by offering extra classes to keen club members who were still in London.
Cue five days of two hour sessions (because one hour never seems enough) and you’ve got ten hours extra training in one week (or eleven if your instructor gets a little carried away).
We covered a lot of ground from Monday onwards, correcting errors and building up the intensity of kihon and kumite throughout the week. The second hour of each day was primarily reserved for complementary katas and their applications. Bunkai was an obvious delight for some and with regular partner changes, it made everybody think about how to adjust their technique accordingly and was a good challenge!
By the end of Thursday we had covered all Heian katas, Tekki Shodan and Bassai Dai in depth. So Friday was a day to revise, adjust and at the end of the session, it was time to perform choice kata in front of the rest of the class.
One thing that has struck me is the immense level of improvement after just five days extra training and those students who continued with their regular evening class showed great commitment!
There was only really one way to end the week (the best thing to do straight after any training session and which also happens to be my second favourite pastime): refueling by eating a well-balanced lunch including delicious vegetables and fruit!
We’ll definitely be doing another summer course in 2013 and will start looking at dates soon so that you can book your holidays around it :-) We could even consider a training away-day? Suggestions welcome!
For Shiranamikai’s second special lesson and grading this year Ohta Sensei delivered a challenging training session with plenty of emphasis on footwork and distancing. The tramline markings on the floor of the studio were put to good use as guides to help us understand the range and width of our own steps.
A bout of nerves crept in here and there during the grading but there were no dramas. Overall, the extra practice that everybody had been putting in for the National Championship seemed to have helped boost confidence, and it was a clear pass for all.
The next grading will take place on Friday 21st September and as ever the best time to start working on addressing your feedback is while Sensei’s comments remain fresh in your mind! The forthcoming kata course (taking place this Sunday 22nd July) could be a great way to get ahead.
It was nice to welcome Ohta Sensei for his first visit to Harrow-on-the-Hill.
We had a one and a half hour training session before the grading which left us all satisfyingly red-faced and sweaty. Sensei kept us together for the basics and kumite portions of the class. As the session progressed Sasha and I ran two separate mini classes to allow the junior grades to focus on their kata.
The grading itself featured quite a spread of grades. From Sensei’s feedback, we have picked out the key areas for students to focus on. We have already begun to work on some of these pointers in our spring classes.
Congratulations to all who passed. The next club grading will take place on 28th June for those who are eligible. Shortly after this comes the National Championship on 7th July, followed by an all grades kata course on 22nd July. For all those who are interested in taking part in these events, we’ll be offering extra training on Saturday afternoons and Wednesday evenings.
There’s also the JKA Spring International Course to look forward to from 4th-7th May at the K2 Centre in Crawley, Sussex, where the training will be led by special guest instructors from Japan. Tsuyama Sensei 8th Dan, Osaka Sensei 8th Dan and Hirayama Sensei 6th Dan will join Ohta Sensei 7th Dan in what promises to be a fantastic long weekend.
From time to time we like to invite guest instructors to the club. Experiencing the different teaching styles and body dynamics of other instructors helps to broaden your karate horizons. And to have a fresh pair of eyes scrutinising your karate can serve as an incentive to make you work that little bit harder.
Sensei Sue Waughman 4th Dan JKA is an instructor at London’s Budokai dojo and trained at Takushoku University under Tsuyama Sensei in Japan during the 1980s. As such she is no stranger to pressurised training environments in which students are pushed to give their best.
Sensei delivered the lesson with lots of passion. She demanded complete concentration and encouraged us to start our movements explosively. “Usain Bolt!” she cried out, requiring us to emulate one of the greatest 100 metre sprinters of all time.
As we stood balanced on one leg during practise for mae-geri, Sensei encouraged the juniors to challenge themselves. “Anybody…” she said, dropping the knee of the kicking leg lower than the ideal preparation position and letting her ankle loosen. Then in contrast, keeping the leg tightly tucked and the ankle flexed correctly, “…A world champion!”. Sensei also directed a lot of pressure towards our seniors, driving them to perform kumite over and over again until she was satisfied.
One thing that you cannot help but have noticed is Sensei Sue’s all or nothing approach – for her, training comes first and anything less than 100% will not do. We train to develop truly powerful and focused techniques, such that one decisive technique is all that would be required if a physical confrontation became unavoidable.
The somewhat intimidating expression ‘ikken hissatsu’ – meaning to ‘annihalate with one blow’ is a reference to this concept and you will hear karate practitioners refer to it from time to time. But take care to understand what it really means, and how it can be applied without contradicting our commitment to self-control and development of character. The concept of ‘technique for maximum effectiveness’ is secondary to the benefits that karate brings to the whole person.
Each of us would hope never, ever to be put in a position in which we would be seeking to achieve a literal ‘ikken hissatsu’. But the philosophical equivalent of the same concept is to make every single action count, delivering each one with focus and to the best of your ability. It is this idea that we wanted you to experience for yourselves.
Thanks to all those who supported this event – we hope it served as something a little different from the usual scented candles and rose petals on Valentines night!
Well done to those of you who continued training throughout the summer holidays – and to those who participated in our two open air training sessions. The weather fortunately held out for us, with the temperature perfect for training (there was even a light breeze to cool one’s brow!).
Anyway; today’s basics were focussed on hips – keeping them level when rotating from one position to the next – and using the energy generated by their motion to push a technique forwards, back or to the sides.
After basics, katas: Kihon and Heian Shodan were followed by some more basics to help with the next kata: Empi. This kata is categorised as an ‘advanced’ level kata, for 3rd Kyu and above but all of the movements emanate from basics that we’ve all encountered early on in our training, and all the stances too. So if you can do reverse punch, front snap-kick, low-level sweeping block and knife-hand block, then it is possible to follow through. It’s also important to understand how basics underpin everything that we do – even advanced level kata. Because without good basics, we cannot perform any of our kata well – not even Kihon.
Next week, we’ll be back in the sports hall and able to fully appreciate the newly refurbished facilities.
Thankfully, our event kicked off rather differently to what was going on in some other parts of London. We were in for one and a half hours of disciplined yet exhilarating training. Ohta Sensei kept everybody together for basics and kumite before working on each kata, emphasising the important points. Each group then got a chance to practise a bit more and some time to rest briefly before the grading exam.
There was no rest for the brown belts though; after a quick water break, they were straight back on the dojo floor for more kata and kumite!
With our club steadily growing, the gradings give everybody an opportunity to see each others’ level and what will be expected when the time comes to attempt the next belt.
Over the few days after Ohta Sensei’s lesson, we received quite a lot of feedback from those of you who had attended. Opinion was split between those who really enjoyed it and those who really ached the next day (but who still really enjoyed it)!
Well done to everybody who passed. You should try to remember Sensei’s comments and apply it to your regular training. Our next club grading will be Tuesday 20th December and will be the last training session of the year.
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 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!
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.
Learn authentic Shotokan karate as taught by the Japan Karate Association. Come and join our karate classes in Harrow-on-the-Hill, Swiss Cottage, West Hampstead and Stanmore.