Sunday 16th January was the first JKS England event of 2022. Hosted at the Nottingham Wildcats Arena, students arrived indoors from the fresh, wintery morning for Black and Brown Belt training with Head of JKS England Alan Campbell Sensei 7th Dan. The course started with a New Year’s welcome from Alan Sensei and the customary presentation of dan grade diplomas duly earned by a selection of students passing their examinations in 2021. The whole day was full of content, not just in terms of karate-do practice but also with competition elements. As the JKS calendar resumes, there is great potential for students looking to enlarge their understanding and application of the martial art both in the officiating capacity and competitively.
The class began with Tom Little Sensei energizing the hall with a thorough warm-up, getting the joints mobile and muscles ready for training. After all the important body elements had been addressed, it was back over to Alan Sensei.
Alan Sensei’s lesson was very clear from the start and catered for all the students, no matter the current (or even future) grade level, age or ability. The recently updated JKS syllabus was to be the main focal point of the morning’s teaching and which Alan Sensei referred to comprehensively, looking at themes for instruction, technical requirements and the intensity which performance of the sequences demands.
Attacking the Shodan syllabus to start, Alan Sensei utilized the size of the hall to train more combinations than is required when assessed during grading. This allowed students to relax into the techniques and feel how to generate subtle improvements as they identified and listened to Alan Sensei’s guidance. Relevant knowledge was integrated into the practice by all as Alan Sensei brought students round frequently to consider pertinent details and help students understand some of the more hidden or complex ideas that the sequences contain.
One of the first components that Alan Sensei tackled was the need to ensure stances are not purely isolated stopping points which bookend the movements completed between them. The ability to “feel” the correct stance through tension, hip position, weight distribution and posture became a crucial subject which Alan Sensei would return to throughout the session, adding more specifics as new stances were encountered. Neko-ashi dachi was given a full appreciation, with correct loading, hip control and front foot placement all in the frame for detailed explanation. Alan Sensei guided students with how to explode from these static stances, rather than just emerge, making sure that this positively impacted the faster paced combinations the session would conclude with. Foot position and hip action would be central to all the other stances mentioned, with weight transfer through knee pressure and direction clarified in order to achieve the most efficient and fastest path of execution for the technique.
Alan Sensei then paralleled the depth of concentration on stance with the need for fluidity within the grading syllabus. With the recent amendments to the syllabus combinations and the more “kumite” style feel, this was something Alan Sensei reflected on, suggesting that the delivery should help students to bridge the gap from more basic kihon, learning how to deliver a selection of techniques with complete connection to the floor smoothly and efficiently.
Kicking at the full range of mobility was next highlighted by Alan Sensei. Establishing stability with the supporting leg and trying to use maximum hip action meant students could draw attention to areas where this is not at its fullest. Ura mawashi-geri, a kick now featuring in the syllabus allowed Alan Sensei the chance to show how height is not a limiting factor in refining technique to maximum extension. Alan Sensei demonstrated how snapping the hip and whipping the leg need to be timed with a supportive body action to compress and release the power generated. Students repeated the
hip extension of this kick, alongside Alan Sensei, to their own height whilst working their obliques in particular. Managing posture and controlling the hiki-ashi (retracting leg) efficiently were key to manage for balance and so that another kick or action could follow seamlessly.
The Nidan syllabus then allowed much of the development to be displayed as the blocking actions meant students had to be increasingly aware of their footwork and instill fluidity to bring everything covered together. Speed was then increased as students eliminated the stop points which restrict the free-flowing nature that the kumite combinations should be demonstrating.
Alan finished with two competing juniors as a vehicle to comparison and allowed the rest of the hall to recognize the items which Alan Sensei had been improving throughout the lesson. Performing at maximum intensity and with many eyes watching on, each student delivered a sequence which was rich in the detail that Alan Sensei had passed on throughout the morning. Senior grades then voted and qualified their choices for the winner of the “bout”. This healthy examination of others gave Alan Sensei the opportunity to detect small improvements in those who showcased a solid base of technique.
After the session finished, the hall was divided into two, with each half representing a crucial element of the competitive element of karate-do and with both seeing a fantastic attendance kept the momentum of the training session going.
Run by Matt Price Sensei 6th Dan, JKS England Squad Coach and assisted by Ben Richardson Sensei 5th Dan, many of the themes Alan Sensei had covered were translated into a competition environment for the Open Squad Training Session. Students practiced multiple techniques, concentrating on footwork, recovery and working angles to optimize their position for safety or to deliver further scoring techniques. Accuracy and completeness of the attacking techniques was always promoted by Matt Sensei to reflect the need to avoid situations where a technique satisfies all the scoring criteria except hitting the intended target. Reaction work and counter-attacking were also practiced by the students with great liveliness and concentration on the specifics of advice given to individual students by Matt and Ben Sensei.
The other key component was overseen by Geoff Dixon Sensei 6th Dan who leads the Referee Development Training. With many new faces to update, Geoff Sensei carefully explained the relevant knowledge which needs to be applied by both corner judges and referees. After detailing this, two areas were set up to allow Geoff Sensei to watch and feedback as these learned rules were applied.
The session culminated in a situation closely mirroring the way in which the JKS International Seminars are conducted in Japan. With a great teamwork effort, the Squad and Referee Training sections joined forces for everyone’s benefit as the squad practiced competition bouts, officiated by those within the referee and judge programme to ensure the JKS expands and improves in the best possible way. An excellent end which is sure to be repeated left all in attendance in the highest of spirits for the journey home.