Sunday the 17th January saw the first JKS England Black and brown belt course of the year take place in Nottingham. With a great turnout in difficult weather, spirits were very high in Nottingham.
However, thoughts of the cold were soon a thing of the past when the session started. After a much needed warm up, Head of JKS England Alan Campbell Sensei (6th Dan JKS) began with some punching drills. Reverse punch (gyaku-tsuki) was used first as an example. Students were encouraged to shorten kime by completing the technique and trying to relax and loosen the arms immediately afterwards. This was then repeated with kizami-tsuki and the ability to “drop” the arms was stressed with students continuing to relax their shoulders as well. Students were helped to understand the need for this; to deliver fast techniques as efficiently as possible and be followed in combination without tension or hesitation.
Punches were then delivered not just from a traditional hikite but from other angles (tucked into the belt, arms crossed and hands clasped behind the back). These were used to enable the students to relax further into the technique and were then practiced with partners. Feedback was given to each other so that all students had areas to work on. Advancing this idea, Alan Sensei then got students to react to their partners movement, initially to work on speed and then to make contact in a more explosive way.
This theme was then transferred to kicking. Speed through relaxation was required for mawashi-geri (roundhouse kick). This cutting technique was something which many students struggled with, as if it wasn’t done immediately, the lack of distance meant the kick was not possible. Alan Sensei encouraged all of the students to approach the exercise with a clear mind as any hesitation reduced the time available for the foot to reach the target.
Hip rotation and stance work was then covered in the middle part of the session. Slow, deliberate movements were used to correct stance transition and allowed the students to identify areas where leg strength and co-ordination were all important. These principles were then moved on to the kata Junro Godan which was said to often suffer reduced practice as it is the last in the series. Students picked up the kata very quickly which was then dissected into smaller sections to practice specific techniques and elements. The kata encompasses many basic techniques and meant even students who had not encountered it before were able to enjoy the benefits which it brought. The importance of stance was reinforced again and the slow movements present meant lots of concentration was required. The kata was repeated in full to end the session and bring to a close a great course to start 2016.
Following the course, Open Squad training was held with JKS Squad Head Coach Matt Price Sensei 6th Dan JKS. This saw an unprecedented number stay for the session which did not let up on tired legs.
Students were taken through a number of movement strategies with Matt Sensei connecting the techniques and combinations to competition kumite. The need for efficient body movement was a vital part of the session; to ensure attacks were so fast the opponent could not respond and that disengaging should be done quickly to complete the scoring technique and move the karateka to safety. Students were encouraged to change partners frequently and excellent demonstrations were given by students of all ages and grades.
Matt Sensei also worked on elements of distraction. Tapping the front leg was practiced by students who were then given numerous variations of kicking and sweeping to employ, making the most of the time gained with the opponent preoccupied.
The session ended with punching techniques delivered at full speed. Students were tested to make contact with the partner whilst they were attempting to escape quickly. This helped to drive the students to remove unnecessary movements which would convey that the attack was coming.