The 2018 JKS England Annual Christmas Course took place at the Djanogly Academy in Nottingham on Saturday 8th December. An excellent turnout was only surpassed by the brilliant course which awaited the students.
As is traditional, Alan Campbell Sensei 7th Dan and Head of JKS England welcomed everyone; including the instructors for the day who were to be Steve Carless Sensei 6th Dan and Matt Price Sensei 6th Dan. Before the course started Alan Sensei was keen to recognise the recent grading achievements for both Nick Heald and Ashley Scott-Heald who passed their 7th and 5th Dan gradings respectively. This was done at the recent JKS International Seminar in Japan. Training and grading in Japan may come with a level of trepidation although Alan Sensei was keen for students to understand the rewards and experience which it offers, by far outweighing the understandable apprehension. Being able to test your karate at the highest level is unrivalled in the benefits to be gained. Echoed by Steve and Matt Sensei, Alan Sensei recounted the trips which JKS England offers and that this really should be a goal for every karateka to aspire to. With training sessions at the Honbu Dojo and Teikyo University, supplemented by referee training on the recent seminar, an immersive experience can afford anyone who goes there new understanding and increased enthusiasm for the art which we study.
Following the warm up, Steve Sensei worked on some kicking practice, progressing the first half of the morning session with a steady pace and demonstrating with some inspiring leg strength and stretching exercises.
Working initially to open the hips by grasping the leg with the hands in a kicking preparation position students then moved to an unsupported kicking position. Steve Sensei ensured students would be clear on the ideal posture and hip position for the technique by always encouraging everyone and lending a watchful eye over the class. Moving next to the floor, students worked mawashi-geri (roundhouse kick) to warm the legs further and isolate parts of the leg movement. A tough exercise, this needed a lot of concentration and determination and nicely set the tone for a demanding morning of kicking. Counting with a smile, Steve Sensei showed many different ways to improve various aspects of kicking which could easily be applied to other kicks and offered food for thought when returning to clubs at home.
Students were then partnered in order to complete leg raises by pulsing up and down against their partner’s hands and also to execute knee lifts into their partners raised arms. Working to make the full kicking technique next, students kicked from a static position with their partner as the target by alternating legs to reinforce the importance of hip mobility, flexibility and posture. Snapping the kicks with control, Steve Sensei gave some very valuable demonstrations to aspire to.
Steve Sensei then looked at the defensive options for kicking techniques and the importance of smooth, decisive footwork and tai-sabaki (body evasion), loading the correct leg at the right time to enable swift avoidance of the incoming kicking technique but also giving the ability to deliver an effective counter attack. Delving further into the kick also saw Steve Sensei illustrate perfectly more intricacies of the technique, with finer points mentioned and explained such as the foot position and path of travel.
The first part of Steve Sensei’s lesson ended with a repeated kicking combination which amalgamated all of the earlier teaching points. Students had to attack front leg mawashi-geri and then immediately follow with a gyaku-tsuki whilst the defender blocked, worked correct weight distribution and stance transition to change the angle and then counter-attack with a punch as the trigger for the next head kick to be delivered. Easier said than done, students enjoyed being a little too quick or sometimes too slow with the techniques as they tried to stay relaxed and attentive. An exciting end to a comprehensive examination of mawashi-geri Steve Sensei had certainly energised the class and covered a huge amount of kicking elements.
The second part of Steve Sensei’s session was dedicated to the Asai kata Meikyo Nidan. Steve Sensei took the class through the entire kata, having broken it down into manageable sections. Pacing perfectly for students to practice and recall the movements (often many foreign ones) in order to build the kata up, many instructions were given on stance, co-ordination and the bridging of technique through transitions. A challenging kata with some unfamiliar moves it matched what the Christmas Course is all about and many students will have been amazed at how quickly they picked it up and hopefully how much they still remember….I wonder if you can now?
A short break then took place prior to Matt Price Sensei taking the class. Matt Sensei decided to reveal his secrets for this session right at the very start and how students would learn to control both time and space, unfortunately not in a Doctor Who type way but I’m sure everyone was content that it was in the context of fighting. First Matt Sensei explained a way of understanding the classification of fighting distances and the vital nature of interpreting these correctly both from an offensive and defensive standpoint.
Students worked with a partner to move between these distances smoothly, later with the intention of being able to disguise movement between them to offer more opportunities during the exchange of techniques. Matt Sensei called out which distance to move to and also covered the need to modify hand position for protection as the distance closes and opens between the karateka.
Matt Sensei then helped students appreciate the footwork required and limitations of delivering certain techniques from the fighting distances in question. Never forgetting the importance of detail and need to avoid cues to attacks, Matt Sensei then showed how this can reduce the chance of a successful attack dramatically. Matt Sensei next utilised a bag of scrunched up pieces of paper for students to test their reactions and deceptiveness, allowing them to best their training partner. Matt Sensei never faltered in his delivery and students quickly practiced executing direct techniques that had no tell to say they were coming. Students had also practiced this by punching their opponents open hand and realised just how true and effective direct movement is.
Matt Sensei also covered a comprehensive approach to defending against attacks from each of the distances being practiced and how timing and preparation are key, giving the defender a fighting chance. Students were able to practice these defences with their partner whilst certain elements of the pre-determined attacks were removed, resulting in less predictability and more reliance of correct reaction times.
Moving onto engaging at a closer distance and to bring more of a street feeling to proceedings Matt Sensei showed how being backed up against a wall can be used to your advantage. The final drill Matt Sensei would oversee, affectionately known as the “chaos” drill ended a fantastic festive
course. An energetic exercise where everyone was involved, filled the hall with fun. Students had to defend attacks from a partner and then upon hearing a whistle locate a third partner hiding somewhere in the hall amongst the sea of white pyjamas. When approaching this person they had to deliver a takedown and strike before sprinting back to the attacker and being put under pressure again. With students literally everywhere and often littered on the floor, students had to dart around each other (occasionally over) to complete the task.
Steve and Matt Sensei had provided the students with a three course Christmas meal, delivering kihon as the starter, kata as the main course and finishing with kumite as dessert. Many thanks go to the instructors, students who made such a great atmosphere and Alan Sensei for organising another top quality day of training.
Merry Christmas and have a very happy New Year, here’s to more of the same in 2019 and with Alan Sensei reminding everyone of the resident instructors in England and visiting Honbu Dojo instructors from Japan due I’m sure it will deliver in abundance.
A dan grading followed the course and congratulations to those who were successful:
Marlon Amulong (Walsall Karate Dojo)
Alwyn Anto (Shotojuku)
Matthew Burchell (JKS York)
Samarth Dasarath (Leed Karate Academy)
Harrison Green (Walsall Karate Dojo)
Kerri Parker (Traditional Karate and Fitness )
Joe Purves (Sho Gai)
Adam Reeve (Traditional Karate and Fitness )
Frederick Saunders (Traditional Karate and Fitness )
Suri Shandilya (JKS Harrow)
Summer Skinner (JKS Brecon)
David Smith (Red Tiger Karate Club)
Chloe Tuck (Grantham)
Nirmay Jadhav (JKS Harrow)
Richard Stapleford (Grantham)
Sam Trigg (Grantham)
Anthony Wilkes (Walsall Karate Dojo)