Over one hundred and thirty karateka descended on Nottingham for the much anticipated return of Masao Kagawa Shihan (9th Dan) on Saturday 1st October.
Kagawa Shihan is a karateka with a phenomenal pedigree. As well as being the world chief instructor of the JKS, he is a former World Shoto Cup winner, all-Japan champion and winner of the first ever World Games. Needless to say, it is a great privilege to host him as part of his European tour.
This was Kagawa Shihan’s first visit to the UK post-pandemic in what is a momentous year for karate and for JKS England. As Shihan and Alan Sensei told everyone, it’s been 100 years since Master Funakoshi first demonstrated karate on the Japanese mainland. 2022 also marks 20 years since the formation of JKS England. With four hours of exceptional karate, the event suitably honoured the occasion.
Over the course of the seminar, Kagawa Shihan focused on a number of key themes, starting with the utilisation of good posture to deliver maximum power with minimum tension. A multi-directional kick and punch drill articulated the point clearly. Dynamic drives transitioned to flowing long punches, as expertly demonstrated by a couple of seminar attendees.
From on-the-spot techniques to chasing drills, the space of the sprawling Wildcats Arena was used to its maximum. Seminar delegates focused on flowing kicking combinations. The addition of a nidan geri – the double jumping kick found at the end of Kanku Dai – certainly made the movements all the more dynamic!
Kagawa Shihan was keen to point out that whether as part of a chasing drill or in regular kumite, variation in footwork was key to taking the initiative. The thought of exclusively using yori ashi sliding steps? A definitive, “No chance!”
And it was the same with hand techniques. Excess tension and lack of mobility isn’t going to work. Boxers don’t punch while overly tense and it’s the same for karateka. We must relax. This is what delivers fast, flowing movements.
Session 2 continued to explore that feeling of relaxed flow, applied to partner drills. From leg flow to hand flow, Shihan focused on the need for “natural spin, natural attack”. Knife hand blocks transformed to ridge hand strikes, to flowing blocks, to spinning back fists and finally into a movement akin to the ‘sankaku-tobi’ three point triangle jump from the kata ‘Meikyo’. The combination was thought provoking and not only required physical dexterity but also mental dexterity and focus.
As the seminar continued, so did the focus on flow. By applying the principle to Heian Shodan, Kagawa Shihan took an exercise familiar to everyone and encouraged a reimagining of how those fundamental movements should be delivered. Whether through a gedan barai, oi zuki or tettsui uke, delegates used whip and drive, focusing on “body snap, not only hand”.
A sense of flow with movements and mindset continued to be the focus with partner drills in the third session. Kake uke hook blocks flowed into shoulder locks. Body evasion turned into takedowns. Foot sweeps into roundhouse kicks. One thing was clear: there was no room for unnecessary tension.
The last of four sessions crystallised the focus on flow, brought to life through two katas. Kagawa Shihan made it emphatically clear that the slide and flow – the ‘kanku’ – of the opening moves from Nijushiho were critical to understanding what the kata has to offer. From start to finish, Shihan demonstrated the power that can be achieved through the continuous flow and movement of body weight.
Finishing with the Asai Ryu kata ‘Kakuyoku Nidan’ was the perfect culmination of the key points from the seminar: good posture, dynamic body drives and flowing movements. The sequences seamlessly blended these themes. Kake uke hook blocks into mae geri front kicks into driving punches. Kagawa Shihan’s almost poetic style of movement clarified what he was looking for from everyone present.
A fellow attendee said that he’d never seen anyone better able to make powerful or complex movements look so simple. This is the essence of mastery. And that, perhaps, sums up why everyone in attendance was so appreciative of the opportunity to be training on Saturday. Because if we can all take away elements from the seminar then our dojos and members will all improve – and our karate will certainly be much richer for it.
We look forward to welcoming Kagawa Shihan for his next visit in 2023.