Sunday the 2nd June was the date for the latest Black and Brown Belt Course which was held in Nottingham. A strong turnout of students was welcomed by Alan Campbell Sensei 7th Dan, Head of JKS England. Following the most recent delivery of dan diplomas from the Honbu Dojo in Tokyo, Japan, Alan Sensei presented these to the successful candidates in attendance.
Alan Sensei then introduced the instructor for the course, Shyam Raithatha Sensei 5th Dan JKS. Shyam Sensei is a long standing JKS member who Alan Sensei has been keen to teach for a while. As an accomplished competitor, Shyam Sensei has also made many trips to Japan for Kangeiko (cold winter training) and international seminars to further his understanding and ability within karate. He is the founder of Harrow and Kingsbury Shotokan Karate Club where he teaches and also still competes regularly.
Shyam Sensei began the session with a warm up which illustrated from the start his dedication to the art, showcasing incredible flexibility it was abundantly clear of the importance Shyam Sensei places on this. Later it would also be clear how Shyam Sensei also encourages a need for flexibility in bunkai which he informed the students would be his focus for the session. To capitalise on this stretching, kihon was utilised with kicking techniques to ensure supple bodies before moving on to the main subject matter of the day.
Heian Shodan was used as an example for Shyam Sensei to explain the principles to be practiced on the course. Completing the kata in its usual fashion (omote)with partners attacking, it was then performed in bunkai where the student doing the kata would move in a more realistic way to approach defence or attack.
Along the way Shyam Sensei gave a very detailed account of the creation and development of the Heian (and Pinan) kata systems, highlighting the importance of Anko Itosu and the movement of karate from Okinawa to Japan on the approach to teaching of them. An impressive historical knowledge was soon shown to be matched by a deep understanding of the information contained within the movements.
Citing always the need for a more realistic attack for the bunkai, Shyam Sensei discussed many points in the exchanges which he demonstrated. A wealth of considerations are always possible for bunkai but Shyam Sensei stressed the benefits in training and reaction for students to aim for a quick and effective response to ensure safety in the situation, for them as the defender at least! With great experience in the security industry, Shyam Sensei covered the use of elbows, knees, sweeps and holds at the appropriate moments, all present in the katas if examined with an open mind.
Moving from sequences in Heian Shodan, students were then treated to the same exploration of Heian Nidan, Sandan and Yondan after first practicing the kata by themselves. Shyam Sensei gave a very comprehensive explanation of many aspects where students often have a reduced understanding due to the hidden nature of their applications. Morote-uke (augmented block), hikite and slow movements within katas were all given the time which they require and practiced against partners as elements within each kata continued to be plucked and investigated. Amongst the students there was a very healthy exchange of ideas and with Shyam Sensei encouraging students to
tailor the kata to their own size, body shape and ability level meant a very productive course was had by all.
Time flew by during the course and this was evident in only reaching Heian Yondan! Shyam Sensei could clearly have spent a long time on each kata but selected a few variants in each to afford an interesting and rewarding morning of training. Students needed to be very switched on to gain maximum benefit but with Shyam Sensei offering captivating bunkai within the session this was easily done. With a tremendous amount of themes to focus on, all students will have a bank of bunkai to recall and practice at home and in their dojos.
At the end of the session Alan Sensei thanked Shyam Sensei for his teaching and also reminded students about the summer course. With new instructors and what’s sure to be a great variety of martial arts practice this exciting course is not to be missed. Please book as early as possible to guarantee a place!