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JKA England Spring 2015 Gasshuku

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.

Easter Training 2015

It was great fun on Easter Saturday!

We had our regular afternoon training session with lots of basics and combos, finishing with kata.

Afterwards it was time for the chocolate Easter egg and spoon races: a regular egg and spoon race first as a warm-up, followed by (in the style of) crabs, Popeye, wheelbarrow and Haribos balanced on heads.

Well done to each of the winning teams – hope you enjoy eating your prizes!

Remember that training continues throughout the Easter break so if you are off from school, this is a good opportunity to get some eggstra training!

JKA England Shotokan Open Championship 2014

Well done to everybody who competed in JKA England’s first open competition. It was a long day but thanks to Apple and trees, there was plenty to keep all of us from the club occupied between events.

Ohta Sensei introduced guest clubs and associations before the main finals commenced and it was nice to see a mix of representations when it came to the awards.

Shiranamikai results as follows:
Kentaro: 4th Place in Kata, Bronze in Kumite, Shion: Gold in Kata, Silver in Kumite, Alexander: Silver in Kata, Tara: Gold in Kata, Silver in Kumite, Reno: Gold in Kata, Itsuko: Gold in Kata, Silver in Kumite, and Anju: Gold in Kata, Gold in Kumite, plus the Trophy for ‘Best Girl Competitor’!

The next competition won’t take place until mid-next year but if you were straight back in the dojo on Sunday morning for regular training then top marks – your preparation has already started.

Shiina Katsutoshi Visits Shiranamikai

We had a fantastic lesson with Shiina Sensei at the O2 dojo. Students who attended the gasshuku will have had an idea about what to expect – boundless energy from this huge personality… and powerful techniques delivered with great control.

What was particularly engaging about Shiina’s style of teaching was the way in which he involved everyone present. Right from the beginning, he asked if there were any special requests for him to cover during training. He also said that we should discuss techniques with each other and work collaboratively to make them effective.

This was a tough training session! Punching, kicking and leg switching to loosen us up; put into practise with groups of three in ten-set rotations, over and over again, spurred on by Sensei’s shouts of “DON’T STOP! DON’T STOP! DON’T STOP!” And we didn’t. For the best part of forty-five minutes, the training was intense.

A brief respite came while Shiina Sensei instructed Heian Nidan. Gathering grades up to 4th Kyu close, he demonstrated each sequence of applications clearly for practise in groups of three. Brown and black belts were tasked with Bassai Dai and after performing the kata, it was bunkai for us too. Sensei asked us to suggest four elements of the kata to practise surrounded by the same number of attackers. After finishing with the fourth attack, it was straight back to the first opponent for a round of ten free-kumite attacks!

Toward the end of the session, coloured belts joined the groups of brown and black. To finish, all black and brown belts lined up and other grades faced them for free kumite. Three partner changes later, the lesson was over.

Somebody commented how they’d never seen my face so red before. This is quite possibly true. I myself noted that some people seemed to have sweated for the first time ever in a session – well done! But out of everyone who attended, there wasn’t a single face without a smile.

Many thanks to Shiina Sensei for visiting our club!


JKA England Autumn 2014 Gashuku

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.

Shiranamikai 2014 Summer Camp

For the past three years, midway through the school summer holiday, Shiranamikai has run a five-day training camp. As well as breaking up the long school holiday, the aim is to show a different side of karate to that which we would normally have time for during regular sessions; to learn new katas and the application of techniques.

A wardrobe/brain malfunction had me looking less than formal on arrival for the first day, raising quite a few eyebrows as a result. Although some karate styles often practise without their tops on, Shotokan is not one of them. So instead, my new t-shirt received a harsh but satisfying Christening.

This year, with a higher proportion of brown and black belts than on previous camps, we had tougher basics and kumite drills leading up to senior katas: Empi, Jion, Gankaku, Kanku Dai, Kanku Sho and Gojushiho Sho. We’ll continue to practise these katas when time allows during our regular classes this year.

Just to reiterate what I said during the training though: it’s nice to know lots of different katas and good to practise them as it will undoubtably help your development. But it is essential that you focus primarily on one kata at a time; that being your own personal favourite or the one prescribed for your next grading level.

Well done to everybody who trained over the full week but especially those who still attended their regular classes on Tuesday and Wednesday evening.

As in previous years, after the Friday morning session, we all trundled off to enjoy a delicious sushi lunch, topped off by mochi ice cream!

Please put 3rd-7th August 2015 into your diary for next year’s Summer Training Camp!


Sasha Farewell

Sasha Sensei delivered an excellent lesson at the end of July.

She showed basics well by example, clearly indicating strike trajectory from start to focus point and gave us time to adjust our positions with a generously timed count initially, up to full power by the end of each set.

Katas Heian Godan and Kanku Dai were given detailed attention with breakdowns and explanations.

We finished off with 99 gyaku tsukis – everybody counting once for three rapid punches. (This was only performed from the left side so we still need to do the right side at some point to even things out!)

This session was more technical than intensive, but because everybody put in maximum effort – challenging themselves and those around – it made for very tough training! Well done to everybody for trying extremely hard and making this session so positive.

Afterwards, there were drinks, snacks and huge slices of another amazing cake made by Alaa!*

When the centre closed, those of us who were still left, continued outside into the warm sunshine and the (uh-hum!) younger ones spent quite some time fooling around in the fountains.

Even though we won’t be seeing Sasha in the dojo, we can all still train in the manner and with the same spirit that she would, if she were there!

*If you have a special occasion coming up, he’s the man to talk cakes with!

JKA England 2014 National Championship

Well done to everybody who competed in the JKA England 2014 National Championship.

There were some great performances throughout the day and the standard of other JKA England clubs was very high.

Results: Shion Bronze Medal in Kata, Megan Bronze Medal in Kumite, Purita Gold Medal in Kumite, Sonoko made the Semi-Final of Kata in what was a big step-up into a difficult category, Anju Double-Gold Medal for Kata and Kumite, Jacob, Ryan and Avan came 4th Place in Team Kata, and Anju later scooped the Trophy and Shield for the Best Junior Female Competitor!

The next Competition will take place on Saturday 1st November, back at the K2. In the meantime, we have the club summer training camp at the beginning of August, Kyu grading in September and the JKA England autumn gasshuku, also in September.


JKA England Spring 2014 Gasshuku

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.

I look forward to seeing you there!