Report – Shikukai Winter Course February 2023.

It’s always a massive challenge to pull together a four-day course in the depths of winter, but it is one that we have always tried to rise to.

This year, of all years, all the pieces seem to fall into place. On attendance alone we broke all previous Winter Course records.

This was the Shikukai Winter Course in Essex.

We are very much aware that people are prepared to travel considerable distances, crossing international boundaries to access what we have to offer in Shikukai Karate-Do International and specifically to be able to tap into the knowledge and experience of our chief instructor, Sugasawa Sensei, 7th Dan Renshi, and the senior Shikukai instructors.

In Essex, we have the advantage of an international travel hub in the form of Stansted airport; although this year some students from Europe decided to explore the option of travelling into the UK by rail, a possibility that actually seemed to work quite well (something to bear in mind for the future) taking the stress out of continental travel, and, a short hop across London to link up with the main rail route into Essex.

This year we had students and instructors from the Netherlands, Norway, Czechia and Hungary.

Sugasawa Sensei was the overseer of the training as it progressed over the weekend. The course instructors (other than myself) were Richard Barham Sensei 6th Dan, Bob Wymer Sensei 5th Dan, Rob Selby Sensei 5th Dan, Steve Thain Sensei 4th Dan and Sue Dodd Sensei 2nd Dan. The comments afterwards suggested that this was very much a top-notch team who, each in their own way, brought something to the table in terms of variety and technical approach; Sugasawa Sensei was impressed by the quality presented.

The unofficial start of the course was the normal Thursday night club night at the Shouwa Jyuku Dojo, the training hall was looking very close to being too small; this was a trend that would continue through the weekend. Friday’s training at the same venue and even more people turned up. In addition to that, Sugasawa Sensei arrived a day early and accompanied us through the session, offering advice to students along the way.

Saturday and Sunday were in the main venue in Danbury, which usually gives us plenty of space… but this time, because of the numbers, adjustments were necessary, and fortunately we had the capacity to make it all work.

On Saturday, the session began with a very brief welcome speech from Sensei, and a special ‘Mokuto’, a silence, in tribute to the memory of Tim Dixon, recently departed and much missed.

As the instruction team kicked into gear, we were eager to engage with the main themes of the weekend. For example, Barham Sensei took on a huge challenge carouselling through the twelve kumite gata of the Shikukai syllabus.

The main kata practice for the seniors was Seishan, which for a long time now has been Sugasawa Sensei’s ‘flavour of the month’ a key feature of his regular Zoom sessions. The key theme of the training was the adherence to good core principle training; something that followed across the weekend and is the background of Shikukai karate as a traditional and pure embodiment of the Wado school.

Across the weekend we covered Wanshu kata and Naihanchi, as well as appropriate Pinan kata. Barham Sensei led an intriguing take on the Kihon Gumite, which reframed the practice in interesting and challenging ways. Selby Sensei’s contributions and ideas are always met with great appreciation and it was no different this time. It was also great to see Thain Sensei sharing his knowledge on Naihanchi kata. Wymer Sensei treated students to his considerable knowledge (and humour). Sue Dodd Sensei did an amazing job corralling twenty very able children into training and grading (assisted by Barham Sensei) as well as workshopping Ippon Gumite from the Shikukai syllabus.

Saturday evening involves a huge get-together in the small town of Maldon on the tidal estuary of the river Thames. A whole clutch of students had taken the opportunity to reside on a specially adapted, permanently moored, restored Thames sailing barge, a wonderful unique experience, but nothing compared to the completely bonkers, very ‘Essex’, glitzy over-the-top restaurant on the Maldon High Street, appropriately called ‘Paparazzi’, that we’d booked for the Saturday evening. The word ‘bling’ comes to mind, but without a hint of irony.

At the end of the course Sugasawa Sensei presented Dan grade certificates and a special award to Selby Sensei for his forty-year dedication to training. Some students took the opportunity for Kyu and Dan gradings, the results were:

  • Andrej Sladky 8th Kyu, Shikukai Praha.
  • Matt Tyler 7th Kyu, Shouwa Jyuku.
  • Will Doble 7th Kyu, Mushin Jyuku.
  • Mark Troman 2nd Dan, Chertsey.

A massive thanks to the Shouwa Jyuku team, who did an amazing job pulling everything together. We are already planning for Winter Course 2024 – watch this space.

Also, a huge thank you to Sugasawa Sensei, who continues to be our source of guidance and inspiration.

Tim Shaw

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