The 2023 Annual JKS Summer Course was held in Nottingham on the 16th of July. A warm welcome was made by Alan Campbell Sensei 7th Dan, Head of JKS England to a very busy hall of excited students as the instructors would be introduced.
Alan Sensei began with some special announcements, including the start of the celebrations for 20 years of JKS England with the upcoming Kagawa Shihan seminar in early September. Alan Sensei also made the presentation of a Rokudan certificate to Shyam Sensei from Harrow Shotokan Karate. This followed a successful grading in Tokyo in 2022 and with this, receipt of the exceptional JKS 6th Dan diploma.
Alan Sensei then took time, alongside the rest of the hall to give a very deserved round of applause to show appreciation for Wendy Campbell Sensei 4th Dan. The year-round effort in organization and administration for JKS England, which extends well above and beyond the major courses and events is invaluable and something that cannot be overstated. Alan Sensei thanked Wendy Sensei for everything that is done at the beating heart of JKS England, all whilst training hard and enjoying the unrivalled instruction on offer.
The participants inside would soon warm up, which turned out to be a necessary requirement to make amends for the lack of summer experienced outside! With smiling faces all around students were relishing the occasion and atmosphere from the get-go and through outstanding instruction would retain this positive mindset for the three hours of training in store.
Nick Heald Sensei 7th Dan JKS would take the lead for the first half of the course and began with a look at how kata can be adapted for training purposes. Nick Sensei would go on throughout his lesson to showcase a natural ability to recognise and then impart the specifics of skill progression within technique. The kata Heian Shodan was performed with the modification of a front kick (mae-geri) after each technique. This adjustment assisted students in setting a correct and balanced stance and to loosen the whole body.
Nick Sensei then proceeded to closely analyse basic technique and the blueprint form to be strived for. Hikite in isolation was practiced first and soon at speed with the hand and forearm needing to track in a straight-line path for maximum efficiency. This would then be reversed as students applied the same though process to the extension of the arm for a punch. This discipline to complete each technique was something which Nick Sensei always encouraged, never settling for a shortened version of the technique. Inspiring students to be equally studious in all the body-mechanisation, the punches were strung together to reinforce the extremes of the hand and shoulder positions as kime was created.
A comparable approach was then taken with mae-geri before it was delivered successively in multiples. As the repetitions increased, Nick Sensei faced different students in the front line, motivating them to maintain their speed but also not compromise the kick by accepting anything short or low. In this orientation, Nick Sensei was acting as a conductor to generate the desired rhythm and input from the orchestra of students facing him as without this leadership many students would have rushed their technique or lost concentration on the clear directions given.
The punching and kicking techniques then became part of as single sequence and Nick Sensei maintained his enthusiasm for fast and determined techniques which radiated throughout the dojo.
Continuing with minor revisions each time, students then worked to change stance to repeat with a sensation that began to feel increasingly dynamic but also increasingly demanding at the same time. Culminating with a high intensity finish, Nick Sensei had progressed the drill at a good rate, testing students’ ability to operate at maximum range even when the pace can easily disrupt the flow.
Partners were then called for as students traded gyaku-tsuki punches to the stomach in a swift and light-footed kumite motion, punching five times in a row. At first this was co-ordinated but then students took turns to try to match the landing of their opponents punch with their own as they reacted to the initiation of their partner’s punch and not before.
The drill would progress to have students practice a follow up to the reverse punch as the fast footwork in switching stances earlier on came in handy. Students would make rapid and deliberate footwork to relocate their body to a position readying a counter with kizami-tsuki, having generated a new angle of attack afforded by the lower body action.
Further counters were then introduced, including ushiro mawashi-geri and then kura-tsuki immediately followed by a sweep and punch. These illustrated some of the possible options which could emanate naturally from the exchange depending on the karateka’s ability and arsenal of effective techniques. After practicing each of the counter combinations between the pairs, this would be repeated with one of each combination being performed successively. The speed had come but a presence of mind was needed to react at the vital time before executing the techniques which Nick Sensei had displayed along with examination of points to address and improve upon.
The next section of Nick Sensei’s class had students work on basic pivoting action to recreate elements ahead of kata practice. Moving ninety degrees to the side to make gyaku-tsuki was repeated before the technique was then replaced with mawashi-empi. An echo of this same pivoting action had students make uraken and then yoko-geri keage next. As many had come to realise what the kata just might be, it was time to practice it in its entirety without overlooking the time which had just been spent on the techniques beforehand.
Heian Yondan would bring Nick Sensei’s lesson and the first half of the seminar to a close. The kata was performed slowly at first with teaching points reiterated to ensure understanding before the floor vibrated with energetic performance.
A brief drinks break was quickly had before it was over to Hans Rana Sensei 6th Dan JKS who preserved the tempo of the lesson which Nick Sensei had established. Students were paired again and in the inimitable style of Hans Sensei, began a class which would not abate in the pursuit of high energy and highly spirited training. The animation which Hans Sensei brings is highly regarded and of huge benefit when the body and mind begin to tire. The lesson started with some leg exercises where students transferred bodyweight from side to side, whilst being ushered to keep as low as possible. With a focus on ankle and hip flexibility, students would work hard to keep the posture which Hans Sensei displayed as they challenged each other to get lower into the stance and sink the hips closer to their rear ankle and the floor.
This partnered stretching would then encompass box and side splits and there could be no better demonstration of this than the one given by Hans and Steve Sensei who slowly moved into each position with a grace and ease that illustrates their expert command of their flexibility and what this can offer one’s karate as well as being a shining example of the endeavour it has taken to reach these levels.
Students would next be positioned at one end of the dojo and into a low, short shiko-dachi squat. With contact made through the hands students were given that extra incentive to stay down as Hans Sensei counted and students made short sliding foot movements to co-ordinate the walk which quickly burned into the legs and hips. Exercises like this are a feature of Hans Sensei’s training and with the narrative provided, always made just that little bit easier as there is rarely a break to entertain any thoughts other than the utmost focus on getting the most out of the specific task at hand.
Having covered “leg day” students would move on to some kihon but with a little twist. The basics trained were extracted from the central stalk of the embusen of all five Junro katas. Building up the speed and adding the combinations up and down from each kata saw students quickly appreciate the clarity needed to move between sections of different katas and especially in the contrasting transitions needing to be made to locate the body in the correct stance to begin the next kata from the desired starting point.
These basics formed a substantial part of Hans Sensei’s lesson and gave students a greater understanding of the central themes of each kata and how advantages can be gained from their practice within the JKS syllabus. Hans Sensei gave advice throughout but the amount of repetition became paramount to help learn the sequence quickly.
Slow kicking was then used to ensure the tired legs were given no respite and was practiced with a partner again to boost the student’s efforts in staying balanced and controlled throughout the conscious and very deliberate extension and retraction of the kicking leg. Hans Sensei always inspires students in the most difficult of moments with an upbeat and optimistic attitude that is reflected in the approach to the exercises by the students.
Relaxed arm swinging was then done to cycle the shoulder through its maximum range of motion. Whilst working this shoulder mobility, the arm would be swung fast as students engaged the hips and core to generate a focus on how this could result in effective striking or blocking if contact was made.
Hans Sensei had pre-declared this full attention for the arms and legs to weigh heavy prior to closing his lesson and with it the course with the Asai-ryu koten kata Kakuyoku Sandan. Hans Sensei had intentionally removed the ability for students to bring any tension into the equation and with Kakuyoku Sandan being new to many students they could savour the exposure to this new kata.
Hans Sensei built the performance up carefully in sections which flowed organically and as familiarisation was achieved, further movements were added. The kata has several novel motions and hand positions which higher grades helped other students to grasp as it unfolded. The kata was then completed at full speed. Hans Sensei had capped an awesome day with motivation and inspiration never ceasing from the instructors or indeed the watchful eyes as Alan and Matt Sensei looked on to help guarantee students knew what to work on within the seminar and could not remain hidden at any stage of proceedings.
The passion which all of the JKS instructors bring to the table is unquestionable and when coupled with the depth of knowledge and experience they have, makes courses like this hugely enjoyable, allowing students to easily recall the advice and learning points covered. With well-structured and engaging lessons, students are presented with a clear pathway for development, knowing at all ability levels, where concentration in training should lie. It is simple to say but the JKS senior grades not only inspire students with the delivery of their lesson, but also their unwavering desire to
advance their own karate and it is this continuous commitment which in infectious and breathes life to offer the very best in a learning environment for others.
A grading then followed the course and in exemplary fashion students managed to deliver some excellent performances, fighting fatigue and nerves to state their case to merit a pass. Congratulations to those successful and as Alan Sensei communicated it is for those needing to retake or present an element next time to come back stronger having put the effort in to the areas of feedback provided.