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An unforgettable course with Kagawa Shihan

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By NB
Published Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Two weeks on from the annual visit of Shuseki Shihan Masao Kagawa 9th Dan JKS and it is easy to see why his instruction is so memorable. Kagawa Shihan attended the Djanogly Academy in Nottingham on the 8th and 9th March as the JKS England course was again turning people away!

Kagawa Shihan continues to kick karate into the future with his inspiring ability and instruction. A shining light in some very influential positions, there is no one better to move Shotokan forwards into the next generation; combining traditional and modern-day concepts to improve all aspects of training from those lucky enough to study from him.

On Friday evening Alan Campbell Sensei 7th Dan JKS, Head of JKS England, welcomed and thanked Kagawa Shihan for his visit and also the students present on the first session of the course. A warm up followed before Kagawa Shihan took the helm for a brilliant examination of some vital basics in Shotokan. Beginning with punching to warm the arms and shoulders, students would then be punching whilst in kiba-dachi and exploring the movement needed within the hips and of the feet when transitioning between stances. One very impressive feat Kagawa Shihan always manages to ensure is that he explains both how and why students should aim to achieve the highest level of technique. Students would then pair up to check hip relaxation and also foot rotation of their partner as they initially moved from zenkutsu-dachi into kiba-dachi and then stepped forwards and backwards into stance, reflecting many kata transitions.

Kagawa Shihan then introduced kicking and still looks as good as any image or video you have ever seen. Utilising mae-geri and then yoko-geri whilst returning to kiba-dachi, students strived to get maximum extension with their hips but at the same time recover the leg to land in the ideal stance. Yoko-geri was then practiced with a partner and with Kagawa Shihan stressing relaxation students found themselves loosening up and thoroughly enjoying the display Kagawa Shihan presents but also the atmosphere within the dojo. When Kagawa Shihan is instructing there is always an air of energy and enthusiasm, something which somewhat increases (no matter what grade) when he is only a few feet away watching on!

Steadily increasing the complexity without ever being unnecessarily complicated, Kagawa Shihan progressed the class onto kicking and striking combinations, where the teaching points of stance transition from earlier were used as a reminder of their importance.

The insights which Kagawa Shihan provides are in abundance and the relationship between all aspects of karate is forever in his focus. Having practiced some specific exercises, this leant perfectly into the kata Heian Yondan. Kagawa Shihan took the class through vital timing points and the co-ordination of relaxed hip action to the hand techniques within the kata. It had everyone thinking about where they can make improvements and appreciating the concentration levels required to strive for continuing development as it is obvious Kagawa Shihan does.

Kagawa Shihan then looked comprehensively at Kanku Dai, a longer kata which involved once more a number of the principles which had been assessed earlier in the evening’s training. Highlighting the significant of readiness and the internal feeling of zanshin, Kagawa Shihan looked at a number of overarching kumite ideas without these being trained explicitly. A fantastic first evening of the course Kagawa Shihan had been smiling and joking as is his way, without ever compromising on the

search for greater performance which should define a karateka. A good night’s rest was most definitely in order.

The Saturday morning session came around very quickly and with the welcome completed for new students training, a special grading diploma presentation then took place. Kagawa Shihan presented both Nick Heald and Ashley Scott-Heald with their 7th and 5th Dan certificates respectively. An incredible achievement for both the individuals and their club, both are a great asset to JKS England and congratulations to them from all of its members.

Mike Gude 6th Dan JKS from Haxby Shotokan Karate Club then made an announcement to the class. Following a recent medical emergency at a course in York, Mike Sensei was keen to remind everyone of the bigger picture and of the fortunate outcome which happened. Mike Sensei thanked everyone for their help at the time and alongside other clubs, members and friends has started fundraising for another lifesaving defibrillator for the school, where it was so very essential a matter of only a few weeks before. Please see https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/manordefibrillator for information on how to donate to this worthiest of causes.

A warm up then took place before it was quickly into kata to open the Saturday’s session. No report could ever do justice to the value Kagawa Shihan would add to student’s karate over the next few hours. Starting with Junro Shodan, moving then to Heian Shodan these would then be followed by Junro/ Heian Nidan and Junro Sandan/Heian Sandan.

In teaching these katas, Kagawa Shihan constantly struck a perfect chord between the desire for ideal technique but also how to deliver and connect the techniques together, especially present in combinations and where the kata is more obvious dealing with one opponent in the bunkai. Touching on many stance transition points from the previous evening the content which Kagawa Shihan included was extensive and the feeling was there that this was just touching the surface of each kata.

Students were then treated to bunkai applications in sequences from the aforementioned katas and Kagawa Shihan especially covered the ideology behind each of the Junro katas practiced. Practicing with partners Kagawa Shihan demonstrated a number of the drills and how when the kata is trained it should reflect the feeling of a kumite exchange in flow, timing and focus.

Kagawa Shihan then looked at a number of Shodan and Nidan kihon syllabus combinations, showing the importance of timing once again with the hand and feet to allow students to cover long distances efficiently in their forward progress of the attacking sequences. The footwork became a focus to cement the foundation for kumite strategy and also the pick up and knee position in the kicking combinations was targeted.

A good amount of time was spent on the side kick combination where snapping and thrusting kicks need to be identifiable. There is no-one better than Kagawa Shihan to illustrate how students should try to emulate this combination although Hans Sensei 6th Dan JKS came very close!

The session would end with Kagawa Shihan working through Jion, Jitte and Gankaku ahead of the dan grading which took place. Kagawa Shihan looked at many detailed aspects of these kata and how to break down the kata to train set sequences.

Throughout the Saturday Kagawa Shihan had covered an enormous amount and often mentioned kamae in his musings. Covering how important this is and when to adapt it (allowing for age or environment) it will have been something all students have been helpfully reminded about.

A shoulder loosening exercise might also be something students may want to (but cannot) forget to understand how flexibility and mobility need continuous attention to form part of technique.

An unforgettable course with a tremendous instructor, JKS England is privileged in the opportunity to host Kagawa Shihan each year and a big thanks goes to Alan and Wendy Campbell Sensei’s for their organisation. Congratulations to them on their recent wedding and also to the dan grades successful it has been a busy time for JKS England. Please see the Facebook page for some excellent photography and video of the weekend from Robert Graham and the website for news of upcoming courses.