September summer almost gone!

Although GibShot has been back training in it’s limited form and we recently had Sensei Mick Dewey 8th dan (SEKU) over to teach, which included the kata Gankaku and some kumite at distance, which isn’t easy, things have at least been moving. Our main classes have been lunchtime and as we are a small group atm distancing wasn’t a problem. Again the main thrust has been kata much easier to keep apart.

I tend to teach kata in a way that helps the confidence and concentration of the students. Yes we practice together as every club does BUT with individuals I also get each of them to perform the kata out front on their own as their colleagues watch. Always kata they know and especially kata they wish to use in competition. Whenever that starts again.

I had this idea years ago because when I was training for competition as I was away from the Honbu dojo in Portsmouth I trained often alone. Yes I trained around London often with Sensei Eric Pitch at Willesden Green dojo and when I worked in London I did lunchtimes twice a week at Marshall Street usually with Sensei Ohta but sometimes with Sensei Enoeda. These classes suited my work routine and though sometimes I was away from the main group especially in Marshall Street where they trained usually in the evenings I lived in Uxbridge so after leaving the office I tubed it home most days. My point being nothing will be better than correct training in a class group but sometimes we have to train alone. At this time in the mid to late 90’s I also taught at Uxbridge dojo on the RAF camp as well as trained myself in Yatley and Sandhurst with another SEKU dojo now long closed. In order to keep this going I often did kata in the Gym on the RAF base which takes some doing if you are not used to people watching you from competition experience which I was. These small kata practices I enjoyed because I had to get over the nerves of people including friends watching me, especially those that did not do karate.

I remember one night I was in the old gym hall alone. I’d been punching the large punch bag strapped to the boxing ring set up, the bag was heavy and full of round beads so it didn’t give too much but the ring reverberated at each punch. an exercise I enjoyed as it helped keep my technique straight. I then started to practice a few kata. Usually I would do all the Heian kata speed and power. If I wobbled or made an error I would do the kata agin slowly then again at speed, only moving to the next when I had no obvious errors.

I would then pick 2 of the brown belt kata and follow the same routine then a first dan kata. Finally I would begin the kata I was practicing for competition. It was around this time I heard several buses pull up outside the gym full of young cadets who were staying in the transit block overnight which was opposite the gym. They were chatting and then I heard someone shouting above the noise telling them to go into the gym and wait. So…. I was going through the kata as they all filed in chattering until they saw me when they politely lowered their voices (there is some good in military training, respect is one). They all lined up against a wall about 50/60 feet away and sat or stood watching as I continued to practice and I have to say once I’d finished that kata I felt like heading out with what seemed like 100 of them but more likely only about 60 looking at me.

I didn’t in fact I started to add more kime and a little speed as I grew in confidence then I added the kiai’s and it wasn’t long before we had forgotten each other and they carried on their quiet conversation. From this point I always asked students to perform their grading kata at the end of a class in front of the other students knowing the pressure would be on but their friends afterwards would be patting them on the back no matter how good or bad they had performed. It is a training method I still do and believe my students get a lot of confidence from it, eventually.