Inspiring JKS Summer Course
The JKS Summer Course took place over the weekend of the 22nd and 23rd of July in Nottingham. It began with a warm welcome from Alan Campbell Sensei 7th Dan JKS and Head of JKS England who introduced the instructors for the coming seminar. Matt Stockham Sensei 5th Dan JKS and JKS Wales Squad Coach was introduced first, followed by Jan Spatzek Sensei 8th Dan JKS, head of JKS Denmark and member of the JKS Shihan-Kai.
Starting with a very thorough warm up to make sure the whole body was ready for the four hours ahead the class was
taught together with Jan Sensei up first. Jan Sensei took the group through a comprehensive examination of basics. Multiple exercises were utilised to practice timing of the hip and hand to generate maximum speed and power. Jan Sensei stressed the importance of the initial hand movement or “trigger” for blocking techniques, which he demonstrated as needing to be fast and snappy, driving the legs to catch up and not labour behind. Heian Shodan was then used to combine the points made, especially for the blocking sequences (gedan-barai, age-uke and shuto-uke). Jan Sensei also spent time on the use of the hips and leg tension to generate fast, fluid and immediate movement when stepping, also covering weight transfer and stance transitions to start what would be a really tough day for the feet!
Matt Stockham then took the class through some kumite drills, expanding on the basics just practiced by looking at footwork and hip action. Matt Sensei morphed these drills into partner work with pressure, timing and targeting all vital teaching points to ensure the students were defending with confidence and also ready to return an effective counter. Matt Sensei was keen for students to concentrate closely on delivering full techniques at all times and not just increasing
speed by sacrificing elements or changing the motions just to catch out their partner. Moving on to increase difficulty and complexity Matt Sensei added ashi-barai and ushiro-mawashi geri to continue the flow of the exercise and challenge the use of the hips. A sweeping takedown was then used to finish with students afforded the time to work on their responses Matt Sensei delivered his seminar with a lot of energy, very much reflected by the students hard work to emulate the same intensity.
After a well earned lunch break Jan Sensei looked at reaction training, responding to a cue from a partner for gyaku-tsuki and kizami-tsuki which meant the feet did not receive any respite as many repetitions were used with students paying close attention to the instructions given. Trying to cover distance with the front leg and deliver the counter in a straight and direct manner Jan Sensei then made this lesson a lot of fun to both do and certainly for those watching as well. Students played rock-paper-scissors with the winner’s prize being an attack (stepping punch) which the partner had to block and counter. An exercise for the brain as much as the body, some students flourished and some may have wished they had practiced this before at home! Jan Sensei then looked at movement off the line with the same focus on reaction by expanding the same themes. A great lesson to keep the spirits high it also helpfully distracted the mind from the sheer amount of techniques done without students realizing it.
Matt Sensei then looked at kicking in detail, covering all Shotokan kicks, hip action and the need for smooth, flowing technique. Moving to blocking combinations with a partner, Matt Sensei examined hip action further, stance and the need to twist quickly to connect the core to the arms. Tiring the legs further Matt Sensei demonstrated some excellent kicking examples with great speed, control and accuracy. The students were then tasked to change kicking levels and repeat kicks with their same leg. Working mawashi geri at different heights, chudan then jodan or changing to ura-mawashi saw some students appreciate the time and effort needed in practice for effective kicking. Switching to a jiyu-ippon kumite exercise next Matt Sensei brought together all of the earlier teaching points for students to practice and bring the day to a close.
To begin the Sunday, dan diploma presentations were made and with a packed hall there was a great buzz to start thefinal day.
A special presentation was made by Jan Sensei to Alan Sensei of his Shichidan (7th Dan) Diploma that had been sent from Headquarters in Tokyo.
Alan Sensei again introduced the instructors before it was down to business.
Many returning for the second day would see even more variety from the instructors with Jan Sensei delivering Rakuyo, an Asai-ryu kata for the Nidan and above grades after the class was split. Often, new kata do not get the time they deserve but Jan Sensei had made sure this was not to be one of those occasions. Spanning the best part of two hours, Jan Sensei covered repetition of the kata, teaching points and elements of bunkai to give students a look at a kata which many had not ever heard of, let alone practiced with someone with such a depth of knowledge and experience.
Matt Sensei began the Sunday with basics, working punches and kicks to engage the core and cover a lot of ground on basics in a short time. Students received a great deal of training techniques and drills to practice in order to improve their kihon. This was then expanded on with partner work, introducing difficulty by testing the response speed and punching/kicking accuracy of the Shodan and kyu grade group.
The Shodan and kyu grades were then taken by Alan Sensei who utilised the wall to help work shoulder action and core control in isolation, before addressing why after asking students to partner up. Alan Sensei demonstrated the desired, relaxed movement to aim for and the need to use upper body joints to engage the opponent quickly and with the force required. Either working with or against the incoming attack, Alan Sensei looked at attacking weak points of the body and joints in defence. This close fighting approach was another welcome variation in a weekend of interesting and expansive karate training. Alan Sensei made sure students were assessing their own technique and that many different body parts must be utilised, along with changing the punching lines to ensure students can still be effective if ever injured or limited in space or position.
Matt Stockham then finished the lower grade group with a look at kata covering many kyu grade kata, Junro Shodan, Nidan and Sandan and some dan grade kata. Matt Sensei continued to keep a high pace, encouraging the students and also selecting key areas of the kata, breaking these down to show how to increase the skill level and therefore performance. Always returning to earlier instructions Matt Sensei bridged the gaps following his previous lessons with great humour and enthusiasm. A great instructor with a likeable character Matt Sensei was then due a rest but unsurprisingly chose to join the class for Jan Sensei’s last lesson.
Alan Sensei expanded his lesson with the higher grades, covering the elements in more detail. Again working close in, students explored reactions and the use of two hands simultaneously to manipulate their attacking opponents. Encouraging students to use their whole body and not just blunt force, this relaxed approach covered elements of Shotokan karate less practiced but still crucial developmentally. The shoulders in particular were an impor
tant part of the session, with students also practicing receiving a push but shown how to roll the shoulder in a fluid motion to create a ripple effect, prevent them from being put off balance and allowing the other side of the body to swiftly meet the opponent with a hand technique. Alan Sensei then looked at expanding his theme on to ways of dealing with kicks that instantly put the aggressor on the back foot and the defender in control.
Jan Sensei then covered Kihoken Yonsei, another Asai-ryu kata which concentrates on the shoulders, luckily having just been expressly mentioned in Alan Sensei’s classes! Jan Sensei taught the whole class with students picking up the kata quickly and practicing the aspects Jan Sensei explained in detail. An amazing instructor with an unrivalled and comprehensive knowledge in karate, Jan Sensei was greatly received throughout his time on the course, with students showing the respect deserved and always trying their best to emulate someone who inspires and illustrates just what the martial art has to offer. A welcome reminder that time spent in the dojo cannot be replicated by watching videos on the internet and copying, especially with kata where the essence can be easily lost or misinterpreted.
Following the course a dan grading happened and congratulations again to those who were successful. Alan Sensei also reminded those who did not pass this time that the only option is to keep on training and come back stronger.
A fantastic course with such variety from all of the instructors gave everyone in attendance a welcome boost in training and with lots more to offer over the coming months please keep an eye on the JKS Facebook page and website for videos, photos and upcoming courses.