The Spring JKS England Black and Brown Belt Course was held on 14th April 2019 in Nottingham. The course was to be taught by Alan Campbell Sensei 7th Dan JKS, Head of JKS England and with a busy dojo, a demanding session lay ahead. Following the welcome and warm up it was not a slow introduction into the course.
Partnering up, students were challenged to lead each other in a shoulder to shoulder position by using smooth footwork to move forwards and backwards. The “chasing” partner had to stay relaxed to keep as close to the lead as possible and avoid becoming out of step. If this wasn’t tricky enough, a squat was also part of the exercise to get the legs working in a plyometric action. Students had to concentrate to react as soon as they could and squat at speed to prevent losing ground on their guide.
Similarly, this reaction technique was performed facing a new student by moving sideways in a kiba-dachi position to target different muscles in the legs and hips. This was in preparation for a lesson to be dominated by kicking. True to form and in place of the squat, students utilised a squat thrust this time to aim to add even more value to the exercise. Alan Sensei was all the while keen for students to focus heavily and understand the importance of correct practice for maximum benefit.
The main theme of the lesson was then revealed, with Alan Sensei using a number of excellent training drills to explore the correct pathway for kicking techniques. An array of kicking principles was mentioned by Alan Sensei who also discussed limitations and detailed many points which are easy to overlook.
In groups of three, students took it in turn on both legs to kick ura-mawashi geri to a hand target. The only problem was the third student standing in the way! Alan Sensei illustrated the need to relax the leg and drive the hip into the kick to ensure the middle person was missed. Students were advised to start at a chudan only level to cater for all kicking abilities, whilst still maintaining attention on both posture and technique. This first drill set the tone and showed perfectly the benefits of kicks which are not delivered in a straight line. Controlling balance and the upper body also became essential as students tired through the kicking sequences.
Moving on to gyaku mawashi geri, the same teaching points were reinforced. Correct hip action and relaxation were key to delivering a consistent technique and the warm up had already loosened the hips effectively. A very difficult technique which is less commonly practiced, some students struggled with the co-ordination of this kick but appreciated the need and impact it can have in developing various kicking skills.
Mawashi geri was the next objective and Alan Sensei stressed the vital nature of the motion of the knee. The same approach was used to emphasize the earlier lessons with a partner standing in the way of the target. Squeezing the knee tightly to the side and “crunching” with the mid-section were necessary elements to achieve a deliberate and controlled kicking technique.
Alan Sensei also advised students of how to engage their ankle and how to use their foot position to strike with the ball of the foot (koshi) instead of the instep. Alan Sensei examined the advantages of this and when to practice each foot position for this kick.
The final test for the roundhouse kick was to carefully hook the foot around the back of a partner’s head and pull towards the student’s core, strengthening the hip adductors and aiming to keep a stable, high knee position. This was made all the more of a challenge as by now the legs were very relaxed and students worked hard to be at jodan level or sometimes higher! Appealing for slow and controlled movement, Alan Sensei showed everyone in attendance how leg strength can be improved but that this takes discipline, trying not to cut any corners, and in terms of the path of these kicks is meant very literally!
The last kick to be covered was yoko-geri and Alan Sensei emphasised the difference between keage (snapping) and kekomi (thrusting) by completing both the kicks in the same drill to each of the two partners as a target.
A well earned break gave students a quick breather before kata bunkai took centre stage of the lesson. Alan Sensei drew comparisons between the importance for ankle control and foot position in kicking to the use of wrist action in blocking and striking techniques.
A mae-geri attack was used to begin and gedan-barai broken down to investigate ways which this can be altered to dissuade the attacker from another attack. Working the wrist and nakadaka ken, two contacts were made on the inside of the lower leg to create a smooth and effective block whilst at the same time constituting an attack to the leg. This gave the kicker much more to think about than just a failed attack and if contact was made with the wrist employed correctly, a block that students are likely to remember for a long time! Alan Sensei showed the adaptation of the basic block and this leant itself well to help students understand the attitude needed to keep focus on the many variations within each technique, sometimes revealed within kata.
With a chudan punching attack replacing the mae-geri, the same idea was practiced, catching the hand with the palm facing downwards to allow a guide for delivering a knuckle attack whilst whipping down with the wrist. Alan Sensei made the point of the importance of contact as part of aiding proprioception to ensure the wrist or hand was contacted every time.
The next bunkai drill saw students blocking mae-geri to the outside with a sweeping block to knock their opponent off balance and expose their back. To take advantage of this, students used the foot work movements practiced earlier to the side, combined with a large arm action to drive the attack into the centre of the back (or later any appropriate location), capitalising on the initial block in the exchange. All of Alan Sensei’s ideas were connected with the same though process and illustrated strong themes in the kata Chinte.
The kata was then taught to enable students to understand how the kata can be used to apply some of the techniques within it. Alan Sensei related teaching points to the bunkai drills from beforehand and showed why this kata is considered a higher grade kata, with many nuances in wrist action and whole body co-ordination throughout.
A dan grading then followed the training course and congratulations to those successful at this attempt. Please also keep an eye out for upcoming courses and information on the JKS England website and Facebook Page..
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