Introduction / Venue
Reading Goju-Ryu Karate Club invited Sensei George to the Pulse8 Gym at the Nirvana Spa, Sindlesham, to instruct an all grades / all ages course on Sunday 27th January. The event had been planned for some time and was the Reading Club’s way of honouring Sensei George’s recent promotion to 8th Dan.
The venue was excellent, with a spacious training area and immaculate facilities.
The Reading club was well represented and Sensei was delighted that other Goju practitioners had travelled from Hereford, Bristol and Hampshire to attend. There were over 25 of us in attendance.
The course began in traditional style with preparatory exercises, these are always demanding and the atmosphere was just the right side of formal as quite a few of us struggled with Sensei’s changes of direction and pace. This set the tone for the course with egos forgotten as we laughed at our own efforts and Sensei encouraged us to keep trying. Sensei George has a redoubtable reputation but his love of Karate and his obvious empathy with young people allowed even the most junior attendees to feel at ease and enjoy the spirited training.
The highlight of the course for most if not all, was the in depth study of Sanchin Kata. Sensei explained the origins of the kata and its fundamental relationship with nature, emphasising the importance of breathing properly as well as focusing on correct form. With Sanchin being so essential to Goju Ryu, Sensei explained how it should be practiced, taught and corrected in a manner appropriate to the student’s age, physique and level of proficiency. The kata was practiced diligently and Shime (testing) was demonstrated on Sensei Luke.
Renzuku bunkai or straight line kata or attack & defence or linear gekisai…
This Goju Ryu drill can bring the first kata ‘to life’ and provide high-speed, fighting coordination practice. Repeated individual practice and working with training partners allowed some of us to achieve mediocrity in this technique… Some attendees, with their roots in different styles or associations were less practiced than others but Sensei George promised that ‘if they didn’t know renzuku bunkai now, they would by the time they went home’. And they did.
San Dan Gi
San Dan Gi and variations were practiced as a physical and mental challenge, with Sensei pointing out the importance of building ‘Karate-specific’ fitness with this kind of drill. It was also described as a precursor to randori / Iri Kumi from a time when little or no free-sparring took place and this kind of pre-arranged drill was carried out with full power and intent. Again individual practice and partner work helped us hone the techniques (and our muscles!). Some intriguing details were shared with the class too, such as the ‘offensive’ capabilities of blocking techniques.
The wide spread of ages and grade of the attendees as well as time constraints, precluded practice of some of the more advance Kata but Gekisai dai ichi to Shisoshin were demonstrated with skill and practiced with enthusiasm.
Sensei also took time to enlighten the class with further links of various kata to nature’s five elements of fire, earth, water, air/wind and ether, describing how, for example Seiyunchin was considered an “earth” kata, with references to geological landscapes mirrored within the kata.
Sensei further applied the same ethos to students who may be physically built for certain types of kata, but should strive to achieve the same standard to all kata.
The 4 hours were soon over and all attendees (and Sensei) clearly enjoyed the training and the non-competitive but demanding ethos of the day. It was great to train with old friends and less familiar karate under an instructor of international standing, who clearly takes his Karate (but not himself) very seriously. A brilliant day and we’ll do it again.
Chief Instructor OTGKA