Report: Shikukai New Years Instructors course.

This traditional annual training course for senior grade instructors and students took place on Saturday 4th January at the River Bourne Sports Centre in Chertsey. Sugasawa Sensei first welcomed the class and New Year’s ‘Good Wishes’ were exchanged. He mentioned that rather than setting New Year’s resolutions which could easily be broken, he personally preferred to set longer term or more continuous goals. Sensei asked each person for how long they had been training in karate, and the answers ranged from around eight years for the ‘newest’ students to over forty years from a number of those present. Sensei noted that he was pleased to see that so many people were training for such a long time. He said that it was encouraging that even when they are no longer able to take part in competitions or sparring sessions, these students then worked hard to find deeper meaning from their karate practice. He encouraged everyone to ‘keep going!’

Tim Shaw took the warm up with a thorough ‘start-of-the-year’ stretch of the whole body. Many different exercises were performed in a progressive manner to ensure that everyone felt supple and had maximum flexibility ready for the training ahead.

Steve Rawson took the next section of Kihon (basics) concentrating on junzuki and gyakazuki techniques leading into an emphasis on nagashizuki. Steve was able to ensure that many repetitions of each technique were completed whilst encouraging correct movements. He noted common errors to be avoided, introducing a series of drills which kept the practice fresh and dynamic. Students then worked in pairs to ensure that the body-shifting element of nagashizuki was performed effectively against an oncoming attack. The drill then developed further to include one, then two additional nagashi-type movements.

After a short break, the class divided for Kata practise with Sensei giving individual and group support. Carol Chatterton took 1st Kyu to 2nd Dan students through the details of Nai Hanchi Kata. Pam Rawson took those with 3rd Dan and above for Chinto Kata. She broke this kata into individual movements, then combinations and finally practice of the whole kata. For each of these sections she gave clear information about how the techniques should be correctly performed, some of the possible meanings and uses of the movements, and information about timing and tai sabaki (body shifting). Further practice of the full kata starting from a different direction than simply ‘facing the front’ made students think about their position in the dojo. This emphasised the need to be able to rely on ‘muscle memory’ for accurate movement and direction through constant practise. Karateka then observed each other performing the kata and gave detailed feedback on an aspect for improvement.

All too quickly, the enjoyable and informative three- hour session came to an end. Everyone had worked hard throughout. Students and club instructors alike had become engrossed in the stream of group and individual feedback given to them throughout the course. This ensured that they could go away to work on and further improve their techniques, and also that they would be able to pass on their enhanced knowledge to other students.

Tim Dixon

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