The latest Black and Brown Belt and Open Squad training took place in Nottingham on the 2nd September, with a Referee Development session running concurrently with the Open Squad. As is customary, Alan Campbell Sensei 7th Dan-Head of JKS England welcomed those in attendance and presented a number of dan diplomas from recent gradings to their proud new owners.
After a thorough warm up, Alan Sensei then let the students know of his plan for the course. It was to be tube training. A gruelling form of resistance training, favoured highly in Japan and renowned for its ability to expose poor technique, this was to be a session demanding repetition, effort and concentration.
A relentless sequence beginning with punching techniques then began. Working in pairs, students would anchor the resistance band in stance as their partner worked hard to keep to the rhythmic count, intently focusing on the quality of their technique and trying to stay consistent.
Tubes are an excellent training method to ensure students appreciate the need for snap in their technique and for correct bio-mechanical alignment in order to prevent the pulling and pushing action which fatigues the muscles rapidly. Beating the band before its elasticity kicks in, is vital to completing full techniques and always challenges the body to maintain correct form. The session highlighted the significance of needing to count correctly; loudly and at a pace befitting the task. Alan and Matt Sensei recounted experiences domestically and internationally, especially from the Honbu Dojo in Tokyo where no quarter is given on the need to get this right whatever the age or grade.
Performing static techniques and then advancing forwards with the same movements, students had to ensure tension was maintained to get the maximum benefit from the course which was unfolding. Tube training is very unforgiving and for exactly this reason it is usually only reserved for higher grades (that were present and luckily fitted the bill). The bands which were used come in different thicknesses, enabling this training to be done by all with tension dictated by the distance between the person using and anchoring it. Moving through common Shotokan techniques and then onto kicks, time had certainly flown by! Students could only concentrate on what was needed whilst in the thick of it with the tube or try to catch their breath anchoring it before they were swiftly back at the business end! After an incredibly sweaty 90 minutes of perseverance, students were treated to a short break before the session resumed.
Alan Sensei then covered Heian Godan and also explored its bunkai. The session ended with the jump in the kata and some students were able to practice this with the shinai which Alan Sensei has brought along. Adding this extra jeopardy ensured students jumped high and quickly, before having to react to the second strike and deliver the block. A fun end to a testing morning left many students with a big smile at just how much training they had achieved through grit and determination.
Once the course came to a close, an impressive number remained to divide themselves between the Open Squad and Referee Development sessions, run my Matt Price 6th Dan and Geoff Dixon 5th Dan respectively. Matt Sensei’s session was very specific and with it thought-provoking. Only covering punching attacks, students soon understood just how blisteringly quick these techniques can be executed, or how sluggishly they can appear to be, all depending on how they are done. Matt Sensei
covered all aspects of the footwork, targeting, distance, hip action, snap and disengagement to thoroughly probe where students can make small adjustments to result in big gains. The importance of maintaining these same principles then weighed heavy as the punching attacks progressed into combinations. An in depth examination as Matt Sensei taught would have been equally mirrored by Geoff Sensei where a wealth of experience and enthusiasm would have been used to pass on the knowledge required to advance the judging and refereeing ability of those present, wanting to further their education and capping a brilliant day.
Please remember that both the Referee Development and Open Squad sessions are invaluable to all karateka and it really is a case sometimes of realising how much more benefit you can get from them only by doing them. As Alan Sensei reminded students, they really should be exploring one of these two avenues to further develop themselves, their clubs/students or the JKS, leading us to be even better as individuals, clubs and an organisation, ever striving and evolving for more success and improvement.