Report – November weekend course in the Netherlands.

It has always been a huge pleasure and an honour to be invited to teach over in Holland. A terrific experience on many levels, not least because of the friendships and personal connections I have developed over the years. And it’s not just the same faces; this time, as before, I meet new people (not always Wado practitioners) and it becomes a two-way thing, fuelled by shared passions for martial arts training and the joy of working together in the Dojo shoulder to shoulder.

Hosts Martijn Schelen and Astrid de Vries have their organisation and promotion skills honed to a fine edged craft; I couldn’t have asked for more. As before, everything was totally frictionless.

Across three days (nine hours) of training we aimed to dig deeply into aspects of Wado karate, which was kicked off on Friday with a granular exploration of the kata Seishan. I have to say that this kata has been ‘flavour of the month’ in Shikukai circles for at least the last four months, maybe even longer. Our chief instructor, Sugasawa Sensei has been forensically dissecting Seishan in his face-to-face teaching and his Zoom sessions. Sensei’s understanding of the kata is largely inspired by his personal experiences particularly with the late second grandmaster of Wado Ryu. So, I felt it was my responsibility to share Sensei’s revelations as best I could and try to represent his teachings.

The reality was that the two hours on the Friday were nowhere near enough time to do full justice to Seishan, but I gambled that it was better to be ambitious with content than to scrimp and make people feel they had been short-changed. As it was, it seemed to work.

Seishan was the springboard for the remaining two days. Aspects found within the kata kept reappearing, often in unexpected ways. This underlined what a joined-up system Wado is, with symbiotic connections revealing themselves, reinforcing core principles, and all of it applicable to fighting.

I know I have mentioned before what a pleasure it is to conduct a course in Martijn’s beautifully designed Dojo, but the structure and ambiance really does add to the whole experience. Although the numbers attending made it quite tight for space, the room is airy and flooded with light.

The students attending were a mixture, not all from Martijn’s own Dojo, but also from further afield. For example; it is always great to meet up with Jerry Smit, a very senior and experienced Wado instructor who travelled down from Amsterdam, who I have known for a number of years now. Also present was a highly ranked Shotokan Sensei; this is his second time training on a Shikukai course, but on this occasion, he was able to run a comparison between Wado’s Seishan and Shotokan’s Hangetsu. But we also had kyu grade students who seemed to enjoy the windows opening up in front of them and to have a chance to work with some very able and skilful seniors and glimpse the bigger picture of Wado.

On the Saturday we explored Pinan Shodan and linked this to specific Wado body manipulations and, as mentioned, references to Seishan popped up, and once you’ve seen it it’s like finding a key to a lock, in fact several locks!

When we opened those doors we were able to move into Wado paired kata and dig into the kumite gata and kihon gumite.

The Sunday training unpacked aspects of Nagasu as applied in defence and deflection; this took us into more paired kata, building up from ippon gumite from the Shikukai syllabus into more advanced kumite.

Saturday evening gave us the chance to unwind and get together socially in a local restaurant.

Overall, this was a very successful weekend. Martijn and I are already sorting our calendars for the next event in the Netherlands and have pencilled a date in for March 2023 – watch this space.

Also, regarding events; across the weekend there was a lot of interest in our UK Shikukai Winter Course. It is looking rather like a Dutch invasion! Sugasawa Sensei and Shikukai senior instructors will be conducting training across the weekend of the 11th and 12th February (with extra opportunities to train). This will be in Essex which is very handy for connections to Stansted Airport. Please let us know if you are interested.

As with the previous Holland course, I will publish a set of technical notes to support the training we did over the weekend. This will be in blog post form and may be of interest to the wider reader and Wado enthusiast.

A huge thank you to Martijn and Astrid and everyone at Kenkokai and to my fellow traveller from the UK, Sue Dodd.

Tim Shaw

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