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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Sensei Dave Hooper JKA

The Man

Sensei Dave Hooper first took up karate as a schoolboy in England, in the 1970's. Nearly eighteen months later he made up his mind to go to Japan to train - the result of his first encounter with Osaka Sensei. He had been invited to London as a guest instructor on a special course. Within ten minutes of being in his class, Hooper Sensei realised that here was a totally different level of karate. It was this karate that he wanted to learn, and this was the person he wanted to learn from. He informed him at the end of the session that he would be coming over to Tokyo as soon as he had finished high school. He arrived at the JKA Honbu (the headquarters of the Japan Karate Association) about one year later.

Hooper sensei was shocked to find that no other Englishmen had got in ahead of him, but it was an even greater shock that four French dan-grades were already well-entrenched at the JKA: He could already see that training here was going to be far worse than he had previously imagined.

He practiced regularly, six days a week, for the next year and a half, and was awarded shodan before returning back to the UK, to begin a three-year undergraduate course at university. In order to maintain the level of training to which he had become accustomed in Japan, he ran a club at the university in Wales. During this period, he was introduced to Kawasoe Sensei, and periodically, he would travel the 250 miles down to London to practice at his own dojo - a dojo that was straight out of Japan.

Apart from a brief visit back to Japan in the summer vacation Hooper Sensei had to wait until graduation before he could return to Tokyo and resume his training at the JKA. This second stint in Japan lasted for the next four years, during which time he was invited to train at the infamous Takushoku University Karate-bu (club), from which many of the JKA instructors (Kawasoe Sensei and Osaka Sensei included) had graduated. He was also a member of Nakayama Sensei's private dojo (The Hoitsukan dojo) for a couple of years, in addition to continuing his training at the JKA.

Hooper Sensei took sandan under Nakayama Sensei in the summer of 1985, and then returned to the UK for another three years where he completed a Ph.D. in motor-control and learning, also at the University of Wales. During this period, he once again ran the university karate club, but much more on the lines of Takushoku's training regime. He was encouraged to realise that contrary to everything he was told on his return, British students were, in fact, quite receptive to this style of training.

In 1988 Hooper Sensei left Britain for the last time, and went back to Japan to live, currently working full-time in one of the major universities in Tokyo.

The Training
Helen, Rebecca, Emma and I, along with members from York and Haxby dojos attended the session which was hosted by York Kenshinkan karate Club. (Many thanks to our hosts)
Hooper Sensei was presented with a very mixed class of karateka to teach from an absolute beginner who was very keen but so new he had not had the opportunity to get a gi yet to 7th Dan. We all went away very satisfied, Hooper sensei had managed to offer something to all. Two of the younger students from York club that were only going to train for 1 hour asked to stay and train for the full session.
Hooper sensei teaches from kihon, the basics, stance, foundation, correct movement etc. what he taught was no different to what Sensei Keith, Andy, Mike and Ian teaches at our clubs but may be with a slightly different focus. What I took away from the course is that it is no good just turning up and training three nights a week. Will I improve, yes but very slowly (this has always been the case). What I need to do is think what I am trying to achieve, what I am trying to work on with each technique I do.
Whether it is trying to keep hip rotation on a level plain, or the contraction and expansion on a movement etc. I need to try and train for myself, what I need to do to get the best out of my training.
What can we learn from visiting instructors, probably not a great deal more than from our own highly qualified instructors? The difference I find is that each time we train with a visiting sensei it lifts the club students and Instructors alike. A motivation injection.

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