The 2019 JKS England Christmas Course took place in Nottingham on Saturday 7th December and capped a fantastic year for JKS England members, competitors and officials. With great success and participation in the delivery of major tournaments, achievements on gradings and at seminars as well as progress continuing at club level, there is a great deal to keep building on as the organisation excels. The Olympics also provides an additional source of excitement to look forward to in 2020 and JKS Karate will no doubt be in higher demand because of this.
Alan Campbell Sensei 7th Dan, Head of JKS England gave a warm welcome to a very busy hall and introduced the instructors who would be teaching the classes for the day. The teachers in the hot seats were Hans Rana Sensei 6th Dan JKS, Geoff Dixon Sensei 6th Dan JKS and Ben Richardson 4th Dan JKS. Alan Sensei was also very pleased to be able to present Geoff Sensei from Grantham with his handwritten Rokudan Diploma, received from the headquarters in Tokyo, Japan. These certificates are incredibly special pieces to commemorate the brilliant achievement that they mark in both the time and dedication applied to karate. A number of other diplomas were also presented to other who passed recent dan gradings.
Ben Richardson would begin the course with a warm up for the whole class, getting everyone moving and loose on a typical winter’s day. This turned out to be the start of a very stimulating course where a wealth of deeper understanding of the martial arts set the agenda. Conducive to learning and hard training the atmosphere present at these events always adds that bit of extra pressure and excitement, especially true when senior instructor are watching!
The class was then split and Ben Sensei took the dan grades through an exploration of how the system can apply at close quarters. Students were instantly paired up to work through a progressive exchange in order to control their opponent’s posture and manipulate their own position to one of safety and effective application of technique. Ben Sensei drew upon a very thorough knowledge of multiple combat systems to explain clearly how students benefit from an open mind and sometimes the need to think outside the box. The comprehensive methods to approach the training which Ben Sensei guided students through enabled a freedom made possible by the ability to recruit the principles taught and employ them at the opportune moments.
Students started by dipping left and right to mimic the evasion of an attack and then added hands to deflect and control the outstretched arms of their partner, allowing them a tactile feel. A punch was then added as the natural next step as students began increasing the speed of both aspects of the exchange with the attack transforming into a gyaku-tsuki punch.
Ben Sensei then demonstrated how quick hands can command the partner’s attacking arms to influence their position, causing them to lose balance. In this position strikes, holds or sweeps were all practiced as Ben Sensei showed the available choices to capitalise on the initial movement out of danger and the attacker’s obvious range. Students manipulated the arm from the outside to begin with and Ben Sensei covered many variations in a very logical and structured way. Ben Sensei always encouraged students to move quickly to maintain the upper hand with strikes and elbows adding to the domination of the situation. Ben Sensei then showed how the arm could be manoeuvred
towards their partner’s head to prevent further attacks and was followed by further posture manipulation, dictating their partner’s centre of gravity and exploiting lines of weakness along their stance. Ben Sensei demonstrated all of the techniques in a smooth, refined manner with an efficient use of his energy to give the most effective result possible. This is very hard to recreate without the experience someone like Ben Sensei can call upon and shows just how crucial avoiding jerky and uncontrolled adjustments can be. Students concentrated thoroughly in the drills to begin to master the techniques involved and how bodyweight can supplement control of their partner.
As students continued to practice and immerse themselves within the themes addressed by Ben Sensei, the ability to control the whole body was further illustrated. Students were educated in how to position themselves to the back of their partner by trapping and disengaging the arms which could otherwise cause damage. Ben Sensei showed how to work up the body to manage the level of disruption to their partner’s stance. This ensured that the greatest advantage could be taken to finish with a choke, lock or restraint as the partner was unwillingly guided to the floor. Ben Sensei had built upon many teaching points and how it is difficult to apply these without imagination and a suitable understanding of bunkai. A brilliantly engineered class meant students had been given the opportunity to gain the most they could out of the instruction with Ben Sensei.
Hans Sensei would take the higher grades next and kept hearts racing and spirits high with some ten second light kumite bouts, changing partner each time. Always eager for students to pair with karateka from other clubs this lively approach yields an enormous amount of smiles and humour at what can transpire in such a short amount of time. Once students had caught their breath, Hans Sensei would cover the kata Meikyo Nidan. In his enigmatic style, Hans Sensei would build the kata slowly to give students enough time to study the correct movements. This would form the foundation to connect the natural sections of the kata together as it was later performed in its entirety. Hans Sensei has a great knowledge of non syllabus kata and his enjoyment of this is always useful when the kata may not have been seen by some students before.
As is almost customary with Hans Sensei, the end of the morning would see some kicking drills. Kicks would be delivered from and return to front stance with slow, controlled movements being focused on first. A partner would also be used to try to concentrate on stability and good posture by gripping hands; mae-geri, yoko-geri, mawashi-geri and ushiro-geri were all practiced without any one of them being favoured and given more time. These would then be done at speed with some minor adjustments to stance to keep the shadow partner from being in the way of the path of the kick and to also train use of the front leg from a static position.
To end the morning session before a short lunch break, Meikyo Nidan would be revisited with students challenged to perform the kata facing in different directions. Hans Sensei tried to disrupt the comfort level achieved when being oriented in the same direction earlier on and test what students had picked up.
After the break Geoff Sensei was at the helm for the dan grades class and began with a footwork exercise called Unsoko Undo. This is a drill from aikido and with Geoff Sensei reflecting on his experience in other martial arts he championed the need to develop a knowledge and style relevant to the body type and interests of each karateka. Geoff Sensei illustrated exactly how the JKS benefits
from subtle differences in people’s training histories and current assets to offer extremely rewarding courses with a variety for students to experience and the Christmas Course was a perfect example of this. The drill concentrates on movement using the legs only but later permutations of it see the hands involved to reveal how the movements can be applied to an attacker. Working forwards and backwards, sideways and then using body rotation as well this gave students an effective understanding of the tai-sabaki which can prevent or reduce the need to use blocking techniques, often signalling further attacks. The body evasion formed a central part of Geoff Sensei’s lesson and facilitated a more commanding position to influence the opponent from.
The movements in the footwork drill were then utilised against an attacking opponent. Geoff Sensei worked on maintenance of posture and reflected many elements that Ben Sensei touched on in the first session of the day. Having shown how bodyweight could be transferred to all angles and with appropriate hip rotation the basis had been established for Geoff Sensei to connect to elements of various katas. The use of efficient and effective counters was then made possible once the attack had been avoided. Working with both punches and open hand techniques, students developed speed and timing to realise how maximum power could be attained in their response.
The redirection of the attacking opponent’s momentum then became central to the attention of the defender. This is a principle sometimes missing from the arsenal of karate as strikes tend to have the most popularity in karate-do. Cementing the smooth footwork movements covered at the start of Geoff Sensei’s lesson, the positioning of the hands and understanding of how to transfer weight was central to the application of the ideas which were explored towards the end of the class. Students would “catch” their partner at the end of an attacking strike to cause them to become unbalanced. Then, taking maximum advantage of the natural reaction to stand up and correct their posture, Geoff Sensei showed how a flow can develop. Using a strong core to control the opponents head/neck, arm bars to redirect their energy and strikes to soften before these manoeuvres, students were encouraged to be relaxed and fluid in their delivery. Geoff Sensei also covered options depending on the size of the defender or attacker and how not all applications will be applicable for everyone. Students were given time to practice each of the techniques shown and also to make their own interpretations depending on how their partner’s body moved.
Hans Sensei then finished a fantastic day with a great deal packed into the remaining hour. Junro Nidan was used first before some bite-size kumite bouts were repeated as had taken place earlier in the day.
Hans Sensei would then cover the “kicking kata” called Rantai, to ensure the kicking drills earlier could be applied. Rantai involves many jodan kicks and leg sweeps to really test the hips and control of the centre line to keep balance and forward progression. The kicks are often immediately followed by either punches or strikes and sometimes done at simultaneously. It would be the kata Kakuyoku Nidan however, which would be given the lion’s share of attention. Approaching in a similar way to Meikyo Nidan from the morning session, this theme would then be observed to match the antics of repeating to all bearings within the dojo.
Hans Sensei finished the class with a special Christmas present for the students in the form of conditioning exercises. In a circle, students would loudly voice the count in turn whilst holding
different stress positions to strengthen the legs, stomach and arms. With a low squat, plank and press up position all called upon, this would normally be easy but with tired minds and bodies, if the count was hesitated on, missed or incorrect, the exercise would immediately restart with students unable to relax until the count had gone full circle.
A grading then followed once the course had come to a close. Many congratulations to those who passed at this attempt.
Thomas Collin - Red Tiger
Max Draper - Zanshin Shotokan Karate Club
Anya Holmes Ellerker - JKS York
Aaron Jefferson - Red Tiger
Petr Kriukov - JKS Harrow
Simon Martin - Seibukan
Ethan Phelps - Leeds Karate Academy
Dylan Price - JKS Wales
Daniel Rokins - Can Do Martial Arts
Zach Ruizo - Walsall Karate Dojo
Payousan Suthaharan - Walsall Karate Dojo
Faye Salt - Walsall Karate Dojo
Henry Smith - Leeds Karate Academy
Jacob Townsend - Walsall Karate Dojo
Oliver Verdon - Can Do Martial Arts
Gary Pratley - Red Tiger
Isabella Wilkes - Walsall Karate Dojo