A great day in York
The annual JKS England Course in York took place on Sunday 16th February and provided a full day of highly specific and grade related training prior to a grading. Hosted by Haxby, Selby and York Shotokan Karate Clubs there was a very welcoming atmosphere and a great buzz in the busy hall throughout the whole day. The manner in which the open course is set up allowed the instructors; Alan Campbell Sensei 7th Dan Head of JKS England and Steve Carless Sensei 6th Dan from Walsall Karate Dojo to give maximum benefit to those training and ensure students are aware of the developmental “milestones” to work towards.
The author cannot comment on Steve Carless Sensei’s higher kyu grade and brown belt session, but every time a break was afforded, saw the class paired up to deliver highly energetic practice under Steve Sensei’s watchful eye as he moved around to address detailed elements in student’s technique.
Alan Campbell Sensei would take the dan grades concurrent with Steve Sensei’s class and covered some intricate detail in both practice and mentality. Recounting recent surgical experience and the need to approach karate in a certain way, Alan Sensei imparted many astute insights as part of his session, all of which, if properly considered, offered great value to both current and future training to make certain karate stays established as a lifelong pursuit.
The progression from kyu to dan grade was at the forefront of Alan Sensei’s mind as the session began to unfold with the attitude and content of training necessitating a greater understanding at this more advanced level. Increasing the quality of practice and not just necessarily the quantity was an understanding Alan Sensei suggested that provides a springboard for further development and not stagnation.
A quick warm up was continued by Alan Sensei with some squat yoko-geris. Delivering the kick to the side in kiba-dachi and with salient aspects of hip extension and posture mentioned explicitly this primed the lower body for the kihon to be practiced next. Alan Sensei devoted time to reinforce how crucial weight transfer is for speed and direct transmission into the technique. Students practiced front stance moving both forwards and backwards in isolation, giving each student the ability to ask the age old question “Is it me?” to the teaching points raised by Alan Sensei. No stone was left unturned as Alan Sensei reminded students how simple is not always easy and where focus can tease minor improvements to maximise the benefits in stance transition.
Mae geri was then introduced to keep the concentration on stance but also how to integrate technique into this thoughtful movement. The upper body was not left out as Alan Sensei introduced the notion of control and tension of the hikite hand and arm in perfect preparation for delivering a punch immediately after the kick. Encouraging students to squeeze their shoulders and release this tension at the most appropriate moment gave everyone a challenge to co-ordinate the elements covered by Alan Sensei at just the right time. This practice then evolved to also cover the same ideas behind the yoko-geri sequences found commonly in kata. Where the kick is completed with a uraken, the elbow is then used in much the same way students had been practicing the punch after mae-geri, however the turning aspect of this combination brought new issues to manage. Alan Sensei used the image of scraping sand with the foot to illustrate how students should anchor and pivot on their heel to allow the correct drive of the kick and follow-on with the elbow strike.
Kizami-tsuki and gyaku-tsuki punches were next in line to enter the students consciousness as Alan Sensei looked at the timing between these and how relaxed the shoulders and hips need to be to cover distance at speed. Maintenance of the hand position was also mentioned here to help students stay protected when attacking as it can be too easy to drop the guard reverting to old and sometimes not necessarily helpful habits. This drill then morphed seamlessly to look at the accuracy of hand techniques against an opponent. Having paired up students would advance towards each other with the hand readied in position before using punching strikes to their opponents scoring areas. This was a very difficult but helpful exercise as unlike basics delivered with no target, the punches had to be well controlled but also minutely altered during delivery to avoid contact with the opposing student’s hands and arms, enabling the intended area to be hit.
The exercise then continued to reflect kumite with disengagement and smooth footwork key to return to many of the concepts covered earlier in Alan Sensei’s lesson. After students had disengaged, they took it in turns to then swiftly bounce back into range with further striking techniques and with the opposing students then moving to different angles meant a very rounded exercise offered the opportunity to put into practice everything touched upon in the first session. The speed and intensity also became amplified with a seemingly constant stream of kiais resonating around the hall. A short break would then take place before the second half of the session resumed with a new set of ideas to inspire.
Resuming the class, Alan Sensei wanted to allow the students to relax and so a variety of elbow strikes was exploited in order to loosen the shoulders and upper body. Attacking with both arms and to multiple angles, students were able to connect the path of the strike with the opportunity which arose when students were paired up shortly after. The attacking student was to deliver a hook punch and the defender covered the attack with fluid and circular movements to block and then take control of their opponent’s outstretched hand. The ability to maintain the guard and therefore give maximum protection related to the teaching points from the first session again and focus on being able to control all elements during an exchange with a partner allowed those training to pinpoint where they can improve. Continuing to make the drill flow, students were able to maintain a close distance but take advantage of their partner by dropping their elbow in and extending the arm round to trap and control their partner’s posture before a takedown or striking vital points with a palm heel or open hand strike.
Further interactions were then practiced with students using body evasion to manage their position before further attacks and manipulations presented themselves. Avoiding the incoming attack was always vital as Alan Sensei demonstrated how stance, hips and relaxation work together to enable counter attacks to be performed quickly and clinically. Students would start with a ridge hand strike to the neck and with great care would then continue to follow this by striking the groin with a knife hand. As students responded realistically, the defender was able to sense when to seize upon the chance to gain maximum benefit by controlling their opponent as they crunched low before standing up. Guiding the energy and posture Alan Sensei proved how many principles need to be observed to inflict maximum damage and command of their partner.
The final kumite exchange was based around a more linear approach to receiving the technique. Students targeted the shoulder joint when under attack but needed expert timing to execute the
most effective defence possible before options were explored in terms of takedowns and other techniques.
Alan Sensei then also appreciated how the legs can be used to command distance and how stopping techniques can be difficult to evade from the attacker’s point of view. The instep was used against the shin, mawashi-geri to the inside of the thigh and mae-geri and yoko-geri to the stomach to all halt the proceeding opponent. After practicing these techniques, Alan Sensei showed how crucial the knee position is in allowing the motion to be effective as if this is not done smoothly and immediately, students could find themselves tied up and unable to accomplish the goal of the technique.
These stopping techniques were then adjusted to attack both joints and “softer” targets to reveal the damage and value these movements could offer if employed at the proper time. This drill is something which can be very rewarding to practice but requires the students to overcome their hesitations with the knowledge of the technique about to stop them.
The final section, Alan Sensei dedicated to the kata Jion which allowed many relevant details from the course to be actioned. Concentrating on the finer points of timing and posture especially allowed a fantastic course to end on a high with the kata performed in its entirety.
A grading then followed once the course had come to a close. Many congratulations to those who passed at this attempt.
Sam Barfield - Selby Shotokan Karate Club
Sarah Dudley - Selby Shotokan Karate Club
Benjamin Lacey - Haxby Karate Club
David Leadbeater - Selby Shotokan Karate Club
Aylah Milligan - Walsall Karate Dojo
Ethan Parmar - JKS Loughborough
Darius Rahmati - Walsall Karate Dojo
Sabarish Thoppe Vishnukumar - Walsall Karate Dojo
Kyan Wickham Clews - Walsall Karate Dojo
Leesa Beckwith - Red Tiger (Crossover Grade)
Jonathan Longden - Red Tiger (Crossover Grade)
Joseph Stanley - Walsall Karate Dojo
Ryan Sharma - JKS Loughborough