When my Sensei visited last summer he left me with three kata to practise. Meikyo, Wankan and Bassai Sho which dutifully I have done. At least until my aged knee starts bothering me. Especially with Meikyo.
this past two weeks I have been adding it to the students repertoire. I was fortunate enough that by the time I hot shodan I probably had all the katas up to an including those required for 2nd dan. This was partly down to the need for competition kata to ensure I wasn’t judged directly against an opponent so I could change a kata before going onto the mat. Not ideal but if you are confident it can work to your advantage. The other reason was SEKU had regular annual week course on the Isle Of Wight, this course over 7 days had lots of content not normally done in normal training. Brilliant if you can go to courses, and training with people you know but only see at competitions is excellent for advancing your own technique.
So Bassai Sho, a short but technically excellent kata with plenty of light and dark moments. Points of power, finesse and balance. Areas of skill, strength and best of all fancy footwork. All encompassed in just over a minute with 34 moves.
I don’t think a day goes by without someone talking about their weight. To karateka it is doubly important and if you are reading this you’ll know I don’t mean the bloater kind.
It’s clear that students come in all shapes and sizes. It is also clear that training regularly as we do helps with any issues we may have unless we put more fuel in than we use. However the weight I refer to is the difficult skill with balance and distribution in stance and movement. “What’s difficult about standing?” You say. Well spend a few minutes with one of us and you will quickly realise it’s harder than you think. Sensei Dave Hazard often used to talk about walking and how it was just a series of falls from one foot to the next because if you didn’t stick your foot in front of you when moving forward you’d fall to the floor. A comical yet excellent practical observation. Dave Hazard along with my own Sensei Mick Dewey are the two most important influences in my karate so when they speak I listen. Arguably this also relates to balance and balance is nothing but the even distribution of weight. Are you still here? For me it starts with the most basic of all stances, the ready stance (Yoi dachi).
Everyone knows this one; feet shoulder width apart, knees just not quite locked, toes turned inwards and balance slightly forward from the centre of the foot. Too far forward you will be unbalanced and fall forwards too far back and you are on your heels a much harder position to move from. This for me is the next best thing to a freestyle kumite stance as you can quickly move in any direction and prepare yourself.
Try it. Move left, move right forward and back. Just breathe as you go, feels ok no? Now I ask you to try it again but at the same time hold your stomach tight, squeeze those glutes and feel it again. Breathe with your stomach and don’t lock those knees! Now one last time try it again without tightening anything in fact breathe deeply in with your chest as you move, do you feel a difference? That lifting of the chest unconsciously lifts your weight up, moving up through your body making you unbalanced and a little uncontrolled in movement. The very opposite of what you want because your weight needs to be under control low in your stance even if you are physically not and the difference to your technique will be incredible.
Breathe with your stomach down low, centre your thoughts, lower everything mentally, squeeze inwards and move quickly but smoothly if you master it let me know how many years it took. I’m still trying.
It is always a pleasure to have my own sensei visit my small dojo in Gibraltar. As Founder, chairman and Chief Instructor of the Shotokan of England Karate Union (SEKU) he brings not just his personality but the friendship of SEKU in abundance. It is also not just the chance to catch up but to send me back to the basics of what he taught and continues to teach. My students all love his visits so it helps refresh their ideas and reinforces my own teaching.
The kata we covered was Ni Jushi Ho with a lot of emphasis on the stances in particular. I actually managed before Tuesdays lesson managed to film him doing the kata himself which was great. I added to it a small amount of interview I did a day later where we talked about Portsmouth Karate Club and how it basically is the source of all shotokan karate clubs in the South of England. You can view the video here if you wish. It also gives a little history of Portsmouth KC.
The grading Thursday proved difficult as always for me like some idiotic parent the tiniest error leaves me red in the face but the fact is these errors are nothing and natural in such a pressured environment as testing your ability physically and mentally. It was successful for the students and the chinese meal at the Shang Hai in Ocean Village was well needed.
Still Gibraltar Shotokan KC continues to roll and as always we look for new members. Contact me via here if you wish to dip a toe in the water and change your life for the better.
A great day last Saturday at the Portsmouth Academy as SEKU returned to it’s roots. Competitors arrived at 10 only 2 and a hal hours after the organisers set up the venue with the help of willing volunteers and the Academy staff. A few hours later it was all over with some excellent competition and results all available on the sekukarate.co.uk web site Just go to the news page if it doesn’t link properly, it will don’t worry 😉
Check out the photo featuring the 1st and 2nd in the kumite Joe Crowe and Danny Walton, more photos will appear over the next few days once Ken Lyons gets them down and out. Next competition is the Portsmouth Open Karate Tournament in November (3rd weekend) don’t miss it!
Following Gibshots first black belt success since we formed back in September 2016 with Nick Cruz it was student number 2’s turn to test his mettle. Paul Crudgington and I headed for Portsmouth Thursday the 2nd February for training and his shodan examination on the Isle of Wight on the Sunday..
As is usual after our arrival we travelled with Sensei Mick Dewey (8th dan) to Hombu dojo also known as Portsmouth Karate Club for the first of the training sessions, as always it was great to see Sensei Stacey Crowe and my old mucker Graham Rowley also there. In fact I had asked Graham to warm up with Paul by way of a small gift from me. It didn’t disappoint, Graham is a right handful and the odd smack in the ‘nads reminded Paul this exam wasn’t going to be easy on Sunday.
On the Friday we were collected by Sensei Brian Smith (7th dan) Lovedean Karate Club and taken to his dojo for our second session. As always we were welcomed by all the students we knew especially Steve Periera who actually hails from Gibraltar but lives in the area. I was paired up mainly with Frog who it is always good to train with though my forearms are never happy lol.
Sunday morning we headed for the Wightlink ferry for the training and examination in Newport at the Medina Sports centre. Training started at 10.30 and ran through to 1.50pm with a couple of water breaks in it so a good 3 hours training. Sensei Dewey taking the first part, Sensei Smith the second and the third was split between them. I won’t talk about the training because some of the techniques are secret and dangerous so you’d best get on a course if you want to learn 🙂
Finally the exam came and as everyone else was finished Paul and others went through their paces for about another hour. We then went though an agonising wait before Paul came out to tell me he’d passed with a shiner to prove it! Brilliant.
I’d like to thank Sensei Dewey and Sensei Smith for letting us visit their dojo’s in preparation for the course also all the students at each dojo for making it a great training experience away from him. Ossu.
Sensei Dewey is back in Gibraltar at the end of March/early April so if anyone want to experience his teaching in person please contact me via email firstname.lastname@example.org
If there are any ladies/men interested in a short self defence course then please contact me on the same email and I’ll make it happen.
Sensei Naka is heading back to Spain the first weekend in June for his now annual seminar in Chiclana. This will be my third and I love training with him. His friendly approachable style is refreshing but his karate is amazing. He is travelling throughout the far east checking in on lots of martial arts, his you tube channel Kura Obi takes its name from a film he did of the same name. Here is one of his latest postings. Naka.
People ask about lessons all the time. Some out of curiosity, some out of real interest and others because they want to pretend they know something about karate. To be honest I’ll speak to all three types but for students, sometimes, it’s hard to cut through the chaff to get to the wheat. And by wheat I mean those that genuinely have an interest instead of those that tried karate for a while, profess to have an interest yet for some reason stopped training?
Karateka never stop training, you cannot because like anything it becomes a part of you. This is no zen master enlightenment here it’s a simple fact. Like anything if you don’t practise it then it wanes and becomes less strong, less technical and less effective. I do not train at the level I did when in my 30’s, weekend courses all over the place, different instructors that each bring something I wanted. Training in Australia, South America, Spain, Scotland and basically anywhere I happened to be holidaying. For a kick off physically I lack some of the energy although other aspects remain, I am slower but I can still punch like a mule kicks. I am not using the weight training aspect to improve my strength or speed so comparably I am weaker. I can still use my own weight and technique to lift and drop a person. Another thing changes too, I am less likely to get into a situation these days preferring nicer places than dark backstreet cafe bars in downtown Lima (Peru) or Santos (Brazil).
Students don’t have the experience and often come to me having been bored at length by someone who knows they train and want to wax on (and off) about how good they were, demonstrating their stances and punching. Well stances are easy to stand in for 10 seconds, punches are ok too once or twice but if you can, like my students, move up and down the dojo for 30 minutes, punches, blocks and kicks going off then perhaps we’ll accept your skill set. I won’t hold my breath though.
To my students I say one thing, only accept advice from those still walking into a dojo regularly and learning, no matter who they are.
You will often see the word written or hear it said especially around dojo’s it’s the Japanese equivalent of ‘innit’ … almost. Without going too deep it is used as a form of respect, a means off agreeing, saying yes and also ok. It is said when entering the dojo (training hall) and leaving both times with a bow. In fact instructors like to hear it not out of respect but because they need to know you are listening, understanding and accepting.
When used before kumite I like to think of it as you accepting the challenge of your opponent and thanking him for the use of his skills to test your own. It also means if there is any injury however slight it was done in the heat of the
moment without malice nor intent.
Finally we use it whenever we bow during class (except in kata). As Master Funakoshi said in one of his precepts, everything begins and ends with a “rei” or bow (and an oss). In other words everything we do in our life begins and ends in “respect”.