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