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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Back into the Kitchen Part 1

A write up by Sensei Ian Culpan:

To quote a famous saying ‘If you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen’, well for the first time in years I ventured out of my comfort zone and travelled to Nottingham (the kitchen) with Paul, Rebecca and Matt to the JKS England December Brown and Black Belt course with Alan Campbell Sensei. I must say I went down with a little trepidation and a knot in my stomach, as it has been many a year since I have gone into the unknown for training, especially as I had seen that afterwards there was the JKS England squad training, so therefore assumed that all of the England squad would be there to kick my butt as it were.

Well we got there and found it to be only a small class this time as the weather had produced a few no shows. Would this be a good thing or a bad thing....less people to kick me up and down the dojo and more quality 1:1 tuition with sensei or a more obvious forum for all my mistakes to be brought to light.

In honesty it turned out to be well worth the trip in the freezing conditions for a fantastic session. After the usual warm up we did 3 syllabus combinations, the first being gedan barai, followed by pulling the front back into neko-ashi-dachi and blocking uchi-ude-uke and then step front foot into zenkutsu-dchi with ura-zuki followed by gyaku-uki. In essence it was not a difficult combination to do, but was very difficult to do correctly. Alan sensei emphasised the contraction and expansion of the hips, which leads to correct movement of the body, which was a running theme throughout the session.

We were then paired up with non dojo mates as it were and Craig Sensei picked up on a few of my mistakes, mainly being not utilising the hips for contraction and expansion when executing the neko-ashi-dachi pull back section. All feedback was constructive and something I can work on those long night shifts at work in the control room on my own. Sensei explained that sometimes you might not be able to use the 2 hands we are used to (i.e. the technique hand and the hikite hand) and that using correct contraction and expansion of the body you can make up for only being able to use one hand. Sensei also commented that whilst we were focusing on the second half of the combination, our initial step forward was most peoples weak point. To counter this we then did exercises in three’s to help our initial step forward to become better and more explosive.

The next combination was yori-ash (slide forward) gyaku-zuki, step forward gedan-barai, yori ash gyaku-zuki followed by a stationary gedan-barai. The purpose of which is to bring kihon drills into line with kumite drills. We paired up (Myself with Wendy Sensei) and used this drill in basic kumite practice. Alan Sensei explained that everything we do can be applied to other aspects of karate and we do everything for a reason, not just for the heck of it.

Finally we then did some spinning techniques, step forward right leg in zenkutsu-dachi and execute shuto (palm facing up), followed by spin forward mae-empi and then spin back shuto (palm down). The main point of the lesson was again contraction and expansion of the hips to create movement in the spin, using the correct heel / ball of foot combinations to utilise body mechanics to get a better / faster spin.

After a quick water break we then went onto some ippon kumite drills that helped us in our execution of the open handed techniques done it the previous drills. Sensei explained that most people have stiffness in the techniques and came up with some kumite drills to help make our movements more fluid and natural. It is hard to think that open handed techniques can be forceful and effective, but believe me if Sensei had utilised them as I know he can they would have bloody hurt. Paul sensei then showed me that his opened hand techniques can also ‘do the job’.

Then much to my delight sensei explained some close quarter drills in a more natural fighting stance (as you might find on the street) where we stopped punches by covering our faces and using elbows to stop the punch, then we were just to take few seconds to look for our opponents weakness (Stance, guard, hand position etc) to come up with a suitable counter. Again expansion and contraction were explained and how to utilise them in these scenarios.

For the final session of the course we worked on the kata Gankaku, slowly broken down in parts and Sensei picking up on any major issues. The main point explained and picked upon was the Nidan-geri in which it was explained that Nidan-geri contain two kicks (hence the name), the first was a normal mae-geri, then quickliy snap the leg back and jump to perform the second kick with the back leg, and again Sensei stressed the importance of the snap back on BOTH kicks. Another point mentioned was hand position in couple of places and again pointed out the contraction and expansion principles we learnt earlier and applied them to the kata.

Then for the final part of the session was Junro Sandan kata. I had never learnt this kata before so it was a baptism of fire really. But I did get enough to at least know the moves of 50% of the kata. Sensei explained though that some people might know all the Junro kata, but they might not be able to perform these kata to any decent standard and that it was better to know only 1 or 2, but fully understand the principles applied to those kata.

All in all the course was excellent by any ones standards and I would encourage any brown or black belt to attend as it certainly taught me a few things and has given me many points to work on the next few months until I am able to go to Nottingham again.

Thanks to Paul for getting us down there, to Alan sensei for excellent tuition and the JKS members for being welcoming.


Ian Culpan

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