Since September 2014, our Club members are in the incredibly envious position of having access to the very best Japanese Instructors in the World thanks to our affiliation with JKS England. Fast-forward 2 and half years and Paul Sensei has travelled to Japan twice, training at Hombu Dojo sessions and the JKS World Headquarters Annual Technical Seminar.
Mike Baron Sensei, Dean Knox Sensei, Joe Ratcliffe, Jo Sysum Sensei and Andy Matalne have all taken advantage of this wonderful opportunity and experienced what it is like to train with the best of the best. Lori-Ann Moran, Connor Cherry and I all completed 7 days worth of Kangeiko training and had the experience of our lives. Former Morecambe and Lancaster Instructor Joni Longden has also made the long trip to Tokyo from his home in Shiga, Japan for several training sessions since his move in July 2016.
Upon everybody’s return, we all seem to say exactly the same, we just CAN’T WAIT to do it again. So when the free flights came up after our delay last time and a little gap in the mad Red Tiger Calendar, it was just too good an opportunity to pass up!
So a small group including, Paul Wolstencroft sensei, Tony Davies Sensei, Paul Critchard Sensei, Lori-Ann Moran, Connor Cherry and I (Rachael Sensei) have spent the last two weeks training at the JKS Headquarters. Julie Moran and Joan Davies also joined us on our trip and watched us train and suffer every day! Dean Knox who was working in Japan on the 2nd week joined us for the final two sessions and Joni Longden Sensei took the week off work to train and guide us round for the first 7 days. I don’t know how we would have got around without him, he was an absolute God send! We can’t thank you enough.
We’d like to say thank you to all the Instructors who covered our classes and made it possible for us to spend 2 weeks learning and developing as students of our favourite art. It was an extraordinary opportunity and and an unforgettable experience. We’ll be forever grateful to the Instructors who kept the Red Tiger beast afloat whilst we were away especially Mike Beckwith and Leesa Beckwith Sensei’s. What a couple of diamonds! Mike Baron Sensei has clearly done a great job of preparing the squad for the Cumbrian Open too judging by the awesome results. Thank you.
The JKS Instructors really are the very best at what they do and to train with them day and night has been a great privilege and an honour.
We were certainly tested and put through our paces in the first few days with gruelling sessions taught by Inada Sensei, Watanabe Sensei, Matsue Sensei and Okamoto Sensei but I can honestly say we enjoyed every minute of it. (There might be something wrong with us!). We went back, morning after morning, night after night.
As a group, we tried really hard to represent both Red Tiger Karate and JKS England as well as we possibly could. It is fair to say that every session left us completely exhausted and our gi’s were always ringing wet by the end.
We also found that the Hombu Dojo is home to the worlds slowest-moving clock. By this I mean that you train your Kihon so repetitively, your legs become heavy and you think the session must be nearly over, then you glance over at the clock and there’s another 35 minutes left. There were sessions that were so hard, it just felt like you were trying to survive and stay upright till the very end. There were days that it was 30 degrees in the dojo. That probably doesn’t help!
Looking back on our sessions it is difficult to pick highlights because every Hombu Instructor is equally impressive, inspiring and have their own unique teaching style.
Everything you do for at least the first thirty-five minutes is Kihon based. Repetitive punches, kicks, blocks, up and down the dojo in stances, practising combinations with bands, without bands. You quickly learn that you must relax in order to complete the first part of the session. Repetitive Kihon training is clearly the number one reason why the Japanese are very best at karate in the World.
Then comes the fitness training…….. squats, sit ups, more squats, leg raises, press ups, more squats, core stability exercises, more squats, it is all about building that strength and explosive power, to grind yourself into the ground and just find the discipline to keep on going. There is no quitting and nowhere to hide.
The students who train day in, day out are an exceptional standard, especially the juniors and the children. They are so well mannered and disciplined. They show utmost respect for not only their Instructors, but also for their elders and fellow students in the dojo.
You quickly learn that manners, courtesy and respect is the Japanese way of life not only just inside the dojo but outside aswell. It really is like nowhere else on earth. The people are incredibly quiet, unassuming and polite and the streets are extremely clean even though there often isn’t a litter bin in sight. They place great emphasis on politeness, personal responsibility and working together for the universal, rather than the individual good. It is just a wonderful and harmonious place to be.
We completed a total of 19 sessions during our time at the dojo. We trained with Kanayama Sensei, Makita Sensei, Inada Sensei, Nagaki Sensei, Matsue Sensei, Arimoto Sensei, Watanabe Sensei, Okamoto Sensei, and Toyama Sensei.
Some Instructors take part in the morning session (before daily Instructor training) and there’s nothing more motivating than training alongside these amazing karate ka.
You’ll be delighted to know that Sensei Paul and I kept a training diary, making note of every drill, every technical point made and every correction. We’ll be working closely with our Instructor team to make sure that they filter this into classes over the coming weeks and months.
We covered so much, all the grading combinations, gohan kumite, kihon ippon, jiyu ippon, jiyu kumite drills. We were also taught in great detail numerous katas including; Gankaku with Okamoto Sensei, Unsu, Kankudai, Kankusho, Hangetsu and all the Junro Katas with Arimoto Sensei. We worked on Bassai Dai, Heian Katas and Tekki Shodan with Kanayama Sensei. Gifts from Manchester were presented to each Instructor who taught us and they were so gratefully received.
We did lots of tube training with Inada Sensei and Kanayama Sensei and several kumite sessions with Nagaki Sensei.
A particular highlight for Lori Ann and I was getting the opportunity jiyu kumite with Someya Sensei JKS World Champion and the Matsumi Kawamura the new Instructor Course trainee.
Paul Sensei also got to cover kumite drills partnered with Toyama Sensei and Tony Davies Sensei got the opportunity to work closely with Okamoto Sensei who was astonished when she asked his age and told him he was ‘very energetic’. Tony Davies Sensei turned 70 years old in March and did amazingly well to keep up with the training. We can only hope and pray that by the time we reach 70, we are in such exceptional physical condition. Karate must be keeping him young!
Dojo etiquette and tradition is strictly adhered to at all times which includes acknowledging every Instructor (and other student if you want to) with an Oss. The dojo is immaculately clean with shoes being immediately taken off at the door.
The dojo kun is recited loudly with plenty of spirit at the end of every session and the floor is cleaned with small cleaning cloths at the end of each session by every student that has trained in the session. Each and every person doing their bit makes sure that the dojo runs like clockwork.
Outside of the dojo, we were busy every single day. I still can’t work out where we got the energy from. I think it must have been the super healthy Japanese diet.
We did plenty of sightseeing including visiting temples and Mount Fuji 5th Station. We also went the Tokyo Dome, where we were lucky enough to watch two university teams playing baseball, we went to Disneyland in Tokyo, sang karaoke and went up the Tokyo Skytree which is one of the tallest buildings in the World.
We really made the most of our time there and had such a laugh together as a group. We had so much fun and literally belly laughed every day.
All in all, we had the time of our lives and would highly recommend anyone to visit Tokyo and train at the Hombu. Remember access is only available through being part of the JKS England family and we are grateful to be on board. Huge thanks to Alan Campbell Sensei for organising our training and giving us his blessing to go and try to better ourselves.
It was a great shame that the trip had to come to end but I’m certain we all missed friends, family, our karate club and the Red Tiger family. We have also missed training with Matt Price Sensei at LKA and look forward to our first session back and the punishment for missing the last two Wednesday mornings! I did get you presents Matt Sensei, if that makes any difference to the severity of punishment whatsoever. Paul Sensei bought you nothing though. Hahahaha!
Bet you can’t wait for us to bring back what we’ve learned, we will see you all in the dojo this week for some hard training.