Report by Richard Barham – Budapest weekend course with Tim Shaw Sensei.

Early in the morning of 3 June, I set off to Heathrow not knowing if my flight to Budapest would be running, and more importantly whether Tim Shaw Sensei accompanied by Sue Dodd would also get to have their flight from Stanstead impeded.

Despite the media hype, we all arrived pretty much on schedule and were greeted by the local host Atilla Jakab.

Ahead of us were three eagerly anticipated days of training at GENKI, the Shikukai group in Hungary; based at Isaszeg, twenty-four miles east of Budapest.

With little time to adjust to the 30°C temperatures, the first session was upon us. GENKI are very fortunate to have their own dedicated dojo, and it is an ideal space for karate training. There is something about the place that makes it feel special. Perhaps it is the collected hours of training that the local students have amassed? Ahead of the training I was pleasantly surprised to be greeted by several of the younger student, who made a special effort to welcome each of us, as well as pay respect to the local seniors. It really showed the character that resident instructors, brothers Attila and Adam and father Laszlo had instilled in their students.

Introductions and re-acquaintances over, we got into the first training session. Tim Shaw Sensei explained from the outset that the theme for the next three days was to be aware of the role of each part of the body in executing techniques, how the different parts were connected, and how the whole ensemble makes for a single effective outcome. Work on these aspects started even in the warm-up – maybe warm-up is the wrong choice of words – it was still 30°C outside.

Now, I am not going into detail of every aspect of the training, suffice to say that over the three days we practiced Kihon, Kata and Kumite, mostly in a very joined-up fashion, where techniques practiced as solo Kihon were then worked in pairs, and where the same principles were also picked out in Pinan Sandan, the featured kata for the weekend. Sensei clearly has a plan for the weekend, and it was delivered flawlessly from my perspective; clearly explained, logical and inspiring. To me, it seemed there were intentional gaps in the explanation, or at least some threads left intentionally open-ended, for the students to connect the dots. There was certainly some of that going on, which made for a very satisfying learning experience. Sensei’s finale was to have the Kyu-grade students work on Goshin-Ho, with some very elaborate escape and control methods that had the students beaming, and the Dan-grades looking on wishing they could have a go!

This was my first visit to the GENKI dojo, but it will certainly not be my last. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience. The training was of course, first class and enlightening, but the hospitality of Atilla, Adam and Laszlo has to be mentioned. They were on-hand from start to finish, and worked extremely hard all weekend to ensure that we had to think of nothing, from arrival at the airport to departure. Transfers to and from the dojo, food and social arrangements were all taken care of. They even dismantled part of the dojo to recover someone’s phone that was dropped out of reach! My personal thanks to them for making the trip such a pleasurable experience, and I can’t wait for the next opportunity to go back.

Foreign travel is rather uncertain at the moment, but this weekend has shown that it does work most of the time. Hopefully the situation will only improve, and I thoroughly recommend giving some thought to joining this course in the future if you have the chance, or indeed any of the other overseas courses in the Shikukai calendar. I am certain the organisers will appreciate the efforts to attend, as I am certain that you will have a great experience.

Richard Barham 6th Dan

Link to the Genki Dojo website.

Report – June Combat Lab Weymouth.

The third Shikukai Kumite based training held at The Combat Lab Weymouth this year was another great success. It built upon previous sessions where students had worked with bags to improve their awareness of distance and timing.

During the intense two hour training, students from a variety of Shikukai clubs worked together to focus on controlling their attack for self-protection and for offence. This involved working in pairs for strength training, stretching and with hand held pads to increase fast and fluid movements. This developed an understanding of Maai No Kakehiki. 

Rather than using physical strength alone, students were encouraged to maintain body discipline while performing certain techniques.

Many thanks to Sensei Steve and Sensei Pam Rawson for a very well planned and executed session: 

Sue Dodd 2nd Dan 

Awesome, so good to work so well together”

“This was such a great session, engaging brain and body, sweaty and interactive, great fun, can’t wait for the next one”

“Lucky to have Shikukai as a family to work and train so hard and so well with”

Report – Shikukai Spring Course, Portland Dorset.

Little did we know when we held our Spring Course in Portland in May 2019 that it would be the last one until 2022. It was therefore especially rewarding to welcome Sensei, instructors and students back to The Osprey to train together once more, including a contingent from Norway with their Instructor Bob Wymer Sensei and Andrew Genery and his student Paul, from Kishin Karate Academy, Doncaster.

Friday evening’s session began with a short warm up by Pam Rawson Sensei then moved on to basics with Steve Rawson Sensei leading the session and Sensei Sugasawa, Steve Chamberlain Sensei and Pam Rawson keeping a close eye on students’ technique. Sensei stressed the importance of “Okori Taru Tokoro” – the origin of the movement. The second hour was devoted to simple kumite based drills, lead by Steve & Pam, incorporating basic Wado principles. Steve Chamberlain was on hand with his “Bokken” to ensure the seniors were moving correctly. Everyone was then invited to take the short stroll along the Marina for light refreshment at “The Boat that Rocks.”

Saturday saw the biggest numbers with around 40 people training. Sensei Sugasawa began the session by leading a minute’s silence (Mokuto) in memory of Suzanne Genery, Andrew’s sister, who sadly passed away ten years ago to the day. He then presented Dan Certificates to those who had been successful over the past two years.

Tim Shaw Sensei took the warm up then the class was split into grades. Steve Chamberlain and Tim took the Seniors for Kihon, working on Junzuki and Junzuki No Tsukkomi. Steve & Pam took the white & green belts focussing on the transition between Junzuki and Gyakuzuki. After an hour, the groups changed with Tim and Sensei leading the Senior grades for Bassai Kata. Tim explained the comparison with working on a classic car – ie it is ever so easy to work on the chassis and bodywork, but the real work is what happens under the bonnet. Steve Rawson took the 1st – 3rd Dans for Jion while Pam took the 3rd – 1st Kyus for Nai Hanchi and Kushanku. Steve Chamberlain took the Green belts for Pinan Sandan. Richard Barham Sensei worked with the White belts, focussing on Kihon Kata and developing into Pinan Nidan. He worked through fundamental aspects such as stance and structure as well as explaining Mudana Ugoki relating to the turns into Gedan Harai Uke. His students then took advantage of the matted area to practise their chosen competition kata. After a short break Pairworks were covered, with Steve & Pam taking the seniors for Kihon Gumite 6,7 and 8. Tim took the brown belts and 1st Dans for Kihon Gumite Ipponme, with Steve Chamberlain working with the Green belts and Carol Chatterton Sensei taking the white belts through their syllabus pairwork.

Saturday night we were back at The Gurkha Restaurant which gave everyone the chance to mingle and meet friends and family.

Sunday’s warm up was taken by Steve Rawson, then the group was again split into grades. This time the seniors were taken by Steve & Pam, again focussing on the transition between Junzuki and Gyakuzuki but this time incorporating Keri. Sensei stressed the importance of correct weight on the back foot. The Junior grades were taken by Tim and Steve Chamberlain.

The senior Kata session this time was led by Sensei and Steve Chamberlain who worked on Ni Sei Shi Kata. Pam lead the 1st – 3rd Dans with Chinto, while Steve Rawson covered Rohai for the Brown belts and Tim did Pinan Shodan with the Junior Grades. After the break Tim and Steve Rawson took the 2nd Dans and above to the matted area where they practised some Tanto Dori and Kumite Gata. Steve Chamberlain took the 3rd Kyu – 1st Dan group with Richard & Rob Selby Sensei working with the Junior grades, emphasising the importance of distance and timing as well as correct defensive action involving Uke Nagashi, Harai and Sogu to avoid direct impact with the opponent’s attack. This evolved into Kumite Kata type movement, attacking and defending from Hanmi Gamae and applying the same defensive actions from Nihon Gumite (Gaiwan Uke). San Mi Ittai was also introduced.

Monday’s warm up was taken by Steve Chamberlain who had prewarned everyone to bring towels as we were going to be lying on the cold floor for some time! The Senior Kihon session was taken by Tim and Steve Chamberlain, focussing on detailed aspects of Renketsu Dosa from the early part of the syllabus. Carol & Richard were then able to concentrate on grading work for those taking a grade later in the morning, including coverage of Pinan Shodan and Yondan.

After a short break, the final session was taken by Steve & Pam who revisited the Kumite drills from Friday night, taking them further with defences and practising them in pairs.

The Kyu Grading examination was held within the session and taken by Tim and Richard.

The following students were successful:

Brian Glover (Mushin Jyuku) 1st Kyu

Andrew Skelton (Kiku Wa Jyuku) 2nd Kyu

Lewis Selby (Mushin Jyuku) 3rd Kyu

Will Doble (Shouwa Jyuku) 8th Kyu

All too soon, the four days had come to an end. Sensei thanked everyone for attending and hoped they had all taken something away to further their training.

Next year’s Spring Course will be held at the same venue, but revert back to the second May Bank Holiday – Friday 26th/Saturday 27th/Sunday 28th/Monday 29th May 2023.

6th May 2022

Pam Rawson 7th Dan

Report – April Instructor’s Course, Tanto Dori.

This was always going to be a challenging agenda; an instructor’s course with Tanto Dori (knife defence) as its main focus!

Fortunately, Sugasawa Sensei gave it his blessing and allowed me scope to present a three-hour training session dedicated to this much maligned, much misunderstood aspect of the fuller Wado curriculum.

Three hours was barely enough.

Let me explain how I chose to design it…

First of all, I had to create a case for Tanto Dori.

I wanted to present it not as some kind of museum-piece (and certainly not as something that stands apart from the wider Wado curriculum).

As such, my opening statements first of all, tagged Tanto Dori as distinctly ‘kata’, NOT choregraphed knife fighting, or (heaven forbid) ‘self-defence’, this is not how the pedagogy works. The wider agenda, of course, has personal protection as it’s ultimate goal, but that’s way down the line, Wado is far more of a sophisticated entity than to pander to mere expedience as it’s driving force, oh no, the methodology is complex and of a much higher order.

So, I presented Tanto Dori as Principle-driven.

Essentially, you cannot access Tanto Dori without anchoring it securely in your core Wado Principles. If any of those key elements are missing then the practice of Tanto Dori becomes empty and meaningless; this is why so often it just appears as a curiosity, an anachronism, or, as is often seen, a sensationalistic ‘performance’ ramped up as a crowd pleaser and (probably) rightly criticised and called out as such.

The content.

We started out with a series of solo drills, which were designed to explore body shifting relevant to the kata we were to later engage with.

The opening techniques featured the established protocols of handling the blade and the nuances of the relationship between Tori and Uke.

The starting technique was ‘Hiki Tate’, this established the element of Tsuki Taro Tokoro, essential to timing and the control of the opponent.

The second technique was ‘Ude Garami’, which introduced the timing necessary for Okuri Taro Tokoro and then involved the locking up of Uke’s whole shoulder process, before leading to his structural downfall.

Next, Harai Uke was deployed against a chudan thrust, leading to ‘Kinu Kuguri Dori’. This was useful in that it emphasised the need to keep Uke perpetually off-balance and never let him recover.

This was followed by ‘Kiri Oroshi’ which lead to ‘Kote Nage Dori’, a vicious demolition of Uke’s attack, which delivered a series of devastating pinpoint attacks designed to take Uke apart into his weakest line.

We then moved into the infamous left-handed deception; the attack and timing of this sneaky thrust puts a challenge on both Uke and Tori.

I followed this with a technique (kata) that was not a part of our normal tradition but emphasised what can happen when Tori is a skilled knife-man, where Uke attacks with a deceptive left-handed move and Tori deploys a hidden multi-point slice and dice which moves from wrist to jugular, follows the line of Kesa-giri and then pierces the lower abdomen supported by an ‘Aiuchi-style’ demolition which in turn uproots Uke and finalised a chain of events that efficiently concludes the encounter.

The last technique was an Idori-style defence against another left-handed thrust.

To finish the whole session off, the brief was a freestyle test; an opportunity to ‘fail’ and to put into perspective the strengths and weaknesses of what can be extracted from the kata of Tanto Dori.

I then added an extra challenge which put Tori into a virtually impossible position, again another opportunity to explore the outermost boundaries of what is possible.

Sugasawa Sensei contributed with adjustments and subtle direction, which emphasised issues of balance and position and the relationship between Tori and Uke. He also advised individual students on how to ensure that Uke suffered the maximum of disruption which preceded their demolition and ultimate downfall.

My thanks to Richard Barham for organising the venue and coordinating everything, and to Richard and Linda for the excellent post-training lunch and refreshments. You can’t get more civilised than that.

Tim Shaw

Report – March Kumite-based training in Weymouth.

Following on from the successful introductory kumite based training in January, an additional session was held in March 2022.

Shikukai students from Weymouth, Chippenham, Chelmsford and Exmouth joined together to learn and enhance their understanding of the Wado principles of Kumite.

The action-packed two hours was led by Sensei Steve and Sensei Pam Rawson and involved kihon drills, bag and pair work. 

Throughout the session the students’ understanding of the use of distance and timing (Ma-ai and Ma) was constantly challenged. 

After a stretch and warm up they began with focussed kihon drills that they would later use with the bags and then with a partner. Bag work enabled the students to increase the sharpness and accuracy of their techniques whilst pair work helped them gain a better understanding of the underlying Wado principles. 

Many thanks to the Senseis for the diligent planning, preparation and delivery of the session and to all of the students from the attending Shikukai clubs for the positive team atmosphere and support of each other.

Sue Dodd
2nd Dan

Report – March, Holland course with Tim Shaw Sensei.

I have been travelling across to seminars in the Netherlands for so many years now, initially to accompany Sugasawa Sensei, but eventually on my own, all down to the enterprising initiatives of the growing nucleus of Shikukai members in Holland.

The course organisation has been under the consistent captaincy of Martijn Schelen, who has always taken his personal inspiration from the teachings of Sugasawa Sensei as Shikukai chief instructor.

But this particular course had a special significance attached to it, as it is the first Shikukai course outside of the UK since the beginning of the pandemic (my last course in Holland was two years ago when we were on the brink of closing everything down and my Sunday night return to Stansted airport was marked by the image of an airport turned into a ghost town).

This time, despite the threat of Byzantine bureaucracy necessary to cross international borders, I was relieved and excited to be back on the seminar circuit. Fortunately, everything went smoothly.

The Dutch students I met told me how they had really been feeling the lack of seminars and events over the last few years, and here we were, back in the Dojo once again.

The training had been organised to spread over three days and was based in Martijn Shelen’s beautifully designed Dojo. I had always appreciated how Martijn had incorporated clever and subtle design features into the available space and had managed to strike the right balance between personalising the interior with idiosyncratic details, while creating the formality of a modern, uncluttered Japanese Dojo all without the need to add any unnecessary ‘Japanesque’ frills (something all too often seen in modern western attempts at Japanese interiors).

I was pleasantly surprised by the attendance; a good mixture of Martijn’s regular Dojo members and people who had travelled from much further afield, and in one case a senior instructor from Shotokan; but also, a healthy showing from kyu grades who were eager for the experience and to explore what the seniors were tapping into. I felt the need to be particularly watchful and to give them as much guidance as I could, because it is the kyu grades who are the long-term future of Wado karate.

Over the three days training I had programmed in a couple of underpinning themes; one was to understand how the whole body contributes to the execution of techniques and to get to actually feel how that mechanism works. The other was to develop/encourage a mindset that focussed on why we do things in certain ways; what do we gain from it? This was delivered through exploration of specific individual techniques and their methods of delivery, as well as kata and carefully selected Wado pairs work.

(I have published a separate blog post on the Shouwa Jyuku website as a series of supporting notes for the students who attended the course. Link).

We totalled eight hours of training over the weekend, but after training the conversations continued (as they always do).

Superb organisation by Martijn and Astrid, my thanks to both of them and to all the Dutch (and Belgian) trainees, a great opportunity to renew friendships and work shoulder to shoulder.

Watch this space for another Holland course later in the year.

Tim Shaw

Shikukai 2022 Winter Course – Report by Tim Shaw.

It was always going to be a risk to organise the first large scale face-to-face Shikukai course in two years, but we went ahead anyway, and I am pleased to say that it turned out to be a major success.

The course was over two days at the Danbury Leisure Centre, five miles from central Chelmsford in Essex, and attracted Shikukai members and non-members from all over the UK.

Here in Essex, we have been hosting the winter course, even before it was recognised as the ‘official’ Winter Course for a long time now. Actually, this has been over ten years of continued teamwork by the Shouwa Jyuku seniors, who have been dedicated to the task of making sure everything runs like clockwork and that time and space for some serious training has been facilitated. Top that off with a stella group of senior Shikukai instructors and you have the perfect combination for an amazing weekend. This was brought home by the broad smiles on people’s faces – I think we were just pleased to be back in the Dojo and working together collectively.

Training had been designed to tap into the very things we’d missed the most; for example, on both Saturday and Sunday, an hour and a half each day was dedicated to Kumite (pairs work). We also pulled everything back to core principles – Sugasawa Sensei had been very insistent that we return to our fundamentals and review the areas that are best designed to highlight those elements; hence, for the seniors, the kata section focussed on Pinan Shodan and Pinan Yondan. These two particular kata will easily reveal your weaknesses and force you to examine your essential Wado mechanisms.

The training covered a wide range of techniques and was comprehensive at all levels; nobody felt out of their depth; yes, we were challenged, but this was very much about improvement and growth. Across the two days the training maintained the balance of being physically demanding and technically challenging; so much information coming from the instructors and shared between the trainees.

In addition, although we had scaled it down from previous years, the social opportunities and chances to get together on the Friday and Saturday evenings happened anyway. Our organisation team had booked tables at local restaurants, which inevitably spilled into enjoying the local music scene in Chelmsford on the Saturday night. Naturally, everyone was aware of the demands of Sunday’s training, with some people taking grading exams, so things remained civilised.

A Shodan examination happened on the Sunday and the successful candidates were:

Margaret Harris of Kikuwa Jyuku Dojo, Chippenham.
Tom Wilkins of Mushin Jyuku Dojo, Devon.

I am very much indebted to the invaluable contributions of instructors; Pam Rawson 7th Dan, Steve Rawson 7th Dan, Richard Barham 6th Dan, Rob Selby 5th Dan and Steve Thain 4th Dan. And for the continued inspiration of Sugasawa Sensei.

Special thanks to Steve Thain and Natalie Harvey for their tireless organisation and coordination, without which this would never have happened.

The next main Shikukai course is the Spring Course in Weymouth, details on our ‘Courses’ page.

Report – January Kumite-based training in Weymouth.

Ken Bu Jyuku hosted a Kumite based training at The Combat Lab on Saturday 22nd January 2022.

This is a newly opened Martial Arts venue in Weymouth and a small group was invited from Kiku Wa Jyuku Chippenham and Mushin Jyuku Exmouth to join Weymouth students for a trial session.

Students were able to take full advantage of the excellent facilities including matted area, bags and pads. Following a successful afternoon it is planned to hold further such courses in the future.

Steve Rawson 7th Dan.

2022 New Year Instructor’s Course – Report.

On Saturday 8th January 2022, Sugasawa Sensei led the traditional New Year training with the Shikukai club instructors in the dojo, marking the first opportunity for face-to-face training since the usual schedule was rudely interrupted by the Covid pandemic. For me personally it was a privilege to host the session and a sheer joy to be training with Sensei and the instructors again. The session was also the first hybrid instructors training session with a further 24+ people joining via video link from their own dojos or homes.  

The session began with some words from Sensei explaining that we cannot be ruled by coronavirus and that we need to find a way around the predicament. He also explained that this session was an opportunity for some intensive training to kick-start the New Year.

After some gentle warmup stretches from Pam Rawson Sensei, we moved on to sonoba-waza with a variety of hand forms, and then Unsoku, or Ashi-sabaki practice (stepping or moving forward with different foot movements.) Despite the way the practice is named, it became clear that this is about generating momentum and range of movement from a stand-still position while keeping your Sei-chu-sen intact and protected, regardless of which stepping pattern is being practised. The level of success being achieved soon became apparent when striking techniques were added. The first hour was rounded off nicely with an increasingly vigorous kicking drill from Pam Sensei, built on Tsugi-ashi and requiring different preparation of the hips for each kick.

Tim Shaw Sensei then led the practice with a look at how certain aspects of Kihon Kata evolve into Pinan Nidan. In particular he explained how dropping energy is introduced in the first movement of Pinan Nidan (something that would come up again later), and the way each half of the body is utilised in equal measure in executing Jun-no-koshi. The points Tim Sensei drew out, illustrated how even a simple kata contains endless fine details that can improve our practice.

We then moved on to some pair work drills (with actual partners to practice with!) practising Nagasu movements, utilising Jun-no-koshi and Gyaku-no-koshi, against the same Gyakuzuki chudan attack.

Steve Rawson Sensei then led the final section of the day’s training, returning to kata with a detailed breakdown of Seishan movements. He explained how creating tension in the Tanden stabilises the body, whereas excessive tension in the arms leads to unwanted shaking. The switching between tensed and relaxed states is an obvious feature of the first (slow) section of the kata, but Sensei explained that a similar principle is used in the Age-waza section, where the body goes into full stretch to make a high-rising technique and then relaxes and contracts to add energy to the following dropping action, enabling the body rather than the arm to add energy to Ura-uchi. The same principle was in fact practised earlier in the opening movement of Pinan Nidan!

Steve Sensei’s session closed with some Ura-no-kumite and Kumite-kata drills, where he observed that the former are simply building blocks that can be combined into more elaborate forms as found in Kumite-kata and Kihon Gumite. It was interesting to make some connections between Seishan and these pairwork drills, the most obvious being the concentration of energy in the Tanden to stabilise the defensive postures. Seishan dachi also featured in the practised Kumite-kata, as did the stretching-contracting principle (again) and even the arm shape practised in the opening section of Seishan is found to be the strong option for the first movement of the Kumite-kata.

By now we had gone over time. I don’t think anyone minded and we could easily have continued for another hour. It was so refreshing to be training together again. Now looking forward to the Winter Course… 

Richard Barham 6th Dan.

Success for Jess Lee.

Jessica Lee has trained with Chippenham Karate Club since she was 6 years old. She has trained regularly, taken part in competitions and helped out with the children’s classes each week. 

The plan was for Jess to take her Dan Grade in 2020 but unfortunately this was not possible due to the pandemic.

Jess is now 18 and emigrated to Australia earlier this week.  Before she left, Sugasawa Sensei very kindly authorised her to attempt a Dan Grading. This took place at the Olympiad Leisure Centre in Chippenham on Monday 6 December.  The grading panel consisted of Senseis Steve Rawson 7th Dan, Pam Rawson 7th Dan and Carol Chatterton 6th Dan, with Sugasawa Sensei overseeing the grading via Zoom.  

I am pleased to say Jess passed and it was lovely to see her obtain her black belt before heading off to pastures new.

We will miss Jess at the club and wish her well for the future.  Her plan is to continue to train and hopefully start a club of her own one day!

Best of luck Jess, keep in touch!!

Carol Chatterton 6th Dan