The latest Black and Brown belt course was held on Sunday 20th August in Nottingham at the Djanogly City Academy. Before the course began, Richard Fewkes 3rd Dan JKS, Instructor of JKS Sheffield and JKS England Squad Member gave all of the students a brief on the 2017 Karate-a-thon due to take place on Sunday 26th November in Sheffield. Richard reminded everyone of the success of the inaugural event which took place in 2015 and the plan for this one to be both bigger and better! The Karate-a-thon sees teams of karatekas endure 12 hours of non-stop karate training with both JKS England’s top competitors and coaches. Aiming to raise funds for the JKS Squad and upcoming World Championships please contact Richard or Joanna at JKS-Sheffield@sky.com for more information.
Following the obligatory warm up, Alan Campbell Sensei 7th Dan JKS and Head of JKS England began the session with some slow kicking. With knees kept high by resting on their partners leg in kiba-dachi, students were tasked with completing yoko-geri techniques by reducing speed and concentrating on every other aspect of the kick. Alan Sensei encouraged those in attendance to work hard to maintain correct posture, knee position and slow action. Alan Sensei kept a close eye on proceedings and also stressed the importance of controlling the movement from start to finish with a consistently slow speed, eliminating any “glitches” where students compensate weaknesses by moving more quickly.
Students then moved to mawashi-geri, working the foot around the back of the head and then pulling the head towards them, engaging the core, addressing good posture and balance yet also examining kicking ranges. Alan Sensei then expanded this theme of differing range with an approaching partner. Students needed to react with direct, immediate kicking techniques to reduce any unnecessary movement. Using blocking to cover (just in case things didn’t go to plan) yoko-geri and mawashi-geri were used to help students understand the extent of their kicking range at the extremes and the need for good technique, flexibility and strength to improve this. With the ability to kick from different distances, Alan Sensei then looked at how this can help give students many more options in both defence and offence.
Further loosening the hips, students also investigated the possibility of kicking even when distance and guard appear to prevent this. Working on a version of reverse mae-geri at the jodan level, students were shown and practiced a way to surprise their opponent at close range in a technique which is difficult to do, but if executed well, something which is very unexpected and tricky to defend against.
A reaction exercise was then introduced by Alan Sensei which again covered distance and timing but this time with a gyaku-tsuki punch to target. With stance changes and the recognition of this, students needed to stay relaxed and monitor their group to work quickly and smoothly, always keeping them on their toes!
To complete the lesson, Alan Sensei covered Bassai-Dai, picking up on vital points to develop the kata in terms of technique and performance, no-one would leave without understanding the importance of this kata as a staple of brown and black belt karate. Repeating key sequences warranting more time and also utilising the senior grades to give specific feedback to a few students each, the potential dan grades all had a wealth of advice available to try to perfect their own efforts. Bringing a brilliant course to a close, Alan Sensei then handed the class over to Matt Price Sensei 6th Dan JKS and JKS England Squad Coach for the Open Squad training session.
With some very fatigued legs, Matt Sensei continued his detailed assessment of kumite skills. Matt Sensei started with light freestyle to weigh up the students and just “how good they look when fighting”. Picking up on a number of things to avoid and things to introduce, students practiced their use of feints, mindfulness of foot position, kamae and selection of appropriate techniques (to name just a few of the teaching points covered). With immediate effect, students certainly appreciated the need to ensure no panicky kicks were used and just how a simple adjustment in stance can hand over the advantage in an exchange.
Matt Sensei is always very open in sharing his top level competition experience but always relates these anecdotes to all kumite situations. Moving on to a defensive drill and comprehensive analysis of hand placement for blocking, Matt Sensei also covered the need for structural integrity in the arms for fast, effective and safe blocking of common kumite techniques. Students also had to ensure the attacks being delivered met the criteria required for scoring and to pressure their partners as much as possible. Furthering Alan Sensei’s earlier reaction drill, Matt Sensei had students react to a count to complete different levels of scoring kumite techniques. Increasing the difficulty, multiple attack combinations were demanded, directing the students to work on fluidity and to change their attack heights to increase their chance of successful attacks. This drill was built up, with the count changing partner and a good number of burpees to boot! A great training tool, the students or instructors present were once again treated to many devices for kumite improvement.
To finish a very thorough examination of making good kumite choices, Matt Sensei then slowed things down dramatically. Students had to avoid a single technique from their partner and respond with the same, but this time moving at a fraction of the pace. With more time, this exercise is surprisingly hard but shows just how vital the ability to slide, move off line and pivot is. Trying not to move backwards and always maintaining their guard, the little students had left in their tank was exhausted. Matt Sensei ended by looking at other fighting arts and their top competitors such as in boxing and how their movement can be appreciated in karate, especially hitting hard and the ability to move to safety from a very short attacking distance.
After a great course it was time for home and reflection on great content to remember when next in the dojo or practicing at home. Please keep an eye on the JKS England website for upcoming events and booking details. With some exciting weekends to come JKS England and Wales has a busy end to 2017 approaching.