Here at E.S.K.K, a big part of what we do is looking at ways to support the local community. We do this in a multitude of ways - one of these being the demonstration of traditional karate and providing taster sessions to local youth groups.
So on Monday 17th November, it was the turn of 1st Hensingham Cubs to join in the fun once more. It was 3 years to the day since E.S.K.K's first visit to Eddie Stewart's cub pack. Eddie now runs the Hensingham branch with help from other volunteer leaders. Back in November 2012, Pauleen Wignall was a cub leader when we visited for a demonstration, she is now the proud owner of an orange belt as she passed her 7th Kyu grading at the weekend, small world! Just as last time, David Forsythe changed his usual Monday night cub leaders uniform for his dogi and joined the E.S.K.K volunteers to share traditional karate with the cubs.
The evening opened up with a Grand Howl where the cubs line up under the leaders direction and the appointed duty sixer (a well earned position of responsibility for one of the 8 to 10½ year olds) leads the salutation. All the cubs crouch down and howl 'we will do our best', the duty sixer then stands and howls back 'cubs do your best'. The cubs all then join him standing and reply with 'we will do our best'. This opening howl is an important part of the session and aligns to the cub promise and scout law which includes the line 'I promise that I will do my best'. This promise aligns perfectly to the ethos of traditional karate, particularly the family spirit and strong determination shown by all of our dojo members.
The 1st Hensingham scouts are usually split over two nights, Monday and Tuesday. Eddie had kindly arranged for both groups to meet on this particular Monday to share the E.S.K.K experience. After a few ball games organised by the leaders to warm the cubs up, the karate team were introduced and Sensei Chris Denwood took the lead. A few of the cubs had some martial arts experience, but for most, this was their first taste of any form of budo. They respectfully sat quietly and watched in awe as we displayed some of our basic techniques and a rendition of our core form, Naihanchi Kata.
A solo performance by John Smallman was punctuated by loud cracks as Sensei demonstrated posture testing as carried out in our senior closed dojo. These cracks were generated by the sound of Sensei's hands slapping down on John's shoulders, as well as kicks that fired in to John's legs to check for correct structure. Although this kind of training is strictly only for adults, The young audience, now completely captivated, were very eager to try some karate for themselves!
Sensei then went on to take the group through a short warm up and a half hour taster session for the cubs. They learned our formal etiquette and the meaning behind our important bows of respect, followed by some basic punches, 'blocks' and kicks. After a few repetitions, The kids found out that karate can be pretty hard work, but although they were tired, they still worked hard and smiled throughout. We finished off the taster session with some padwork drills using the techniques learned to really raise the pulses. Sadly though, the time passed far too quickly and with the arrival of parents, this signalled the end of the session. We were all impressed at just how much everyone had learned in such a short space of time as demonstrated by a well performed closing etiquette.
Then, just as last time, all the members from the demo team were awarded the status of honorary cub and formally presented with a group necker and woggle. As Sensei and John Smallman were already made honorary cubs back in 2012, they were awarded with handmade para-cord woggles as a token of gratitude for helping the group.
A special thanks goes to all our new honorary cubs:
Elaine Ashford / Charlie Ashford / Sophie Cullen / Lewis Cullen / Holly Leeson / Danielle Leeson / Kelvin McDonald / Natasha McDonald / Dominic Mills / Reid Nicholls.
Reid also swapped his cub uniform for his dogi to perform in front of his fellow cubs. What a courageous effort and one which we hope will earn him his cub martial arts activity badge.
Thanks also to our existing honorary cubs, John Smallman and Sensei Chris Denwood and cub leader, David Forsythe. We all very much enjoyed working with the cubs, were privileged by the invitation and appreciate the support of all the leaders on the night.
Dave F and Sophie C
A huge well done to everyone who challenged the grading on Sunday 15th November. We tested around 50 candidates from our beginner and intermediate ranks up to 4th Kyu (Purple Belt).
Congratulations to those who achieved their next rank and whether successful or not, it was clear that everyone put in 100%, which make us most proud!
Special congratulations goes to Alison Grice and Thomas Allaker on achieving a distinction - our highest level set aside only for those of an exceptional standard.
Like every grading, we all come away with the inspiration to train harder in order to continually raise dojo standards so that we may all improve together.
See you all back in the dojo soon!
To Provisional 9th Kyu (Red Stripe):
To 9th Kyu (Red Belt):
To Provisional 8th Kyu (Yellow Stripe):
To 8th Kyu (Yellow Belt):
To 7th Kyu (Orange Belt):
To Provisional 6th Kyu (Green Stripe):
To 6th Kyu (Green Belt):
To Provisional 5th Kyu (Blue Stripe):
To 5th Kyu (Blue Belt):
To 4th Kyu (Purple Belt):
We're very happy to announce that we will soon be launching a brand new karate club in Gosforth!
This new dojo will help serve members who live South of Egremont, potentially making it more convenient for those who work at Sellafield and hopefully, helping us further spread the benefits of our karate with the wider community.
This weekly class will be held on Wednesdays at the Gosforth Public Hall at the following times...
4:45pm to 5:40pm: Level 01 (Beginners)
5:45pm to 6:45pm: Level 02/03 (Intermediate & Advanced)
We will be holding two special pre-launch classes on 25th November and 2nd December, before starting officially on 27th January 2016. We'd like to invite all our current members who'd like to come along to help support us.
Beginners class are open to boys and girls aged five years and up, teenagers and adults of all ages and abilities. You only require a basic level of fitness to begin karate training - we'll help you do the rest :-)
To our current members: If you'd like to make our new Gosforth dojo a regular class in 2016, then please let us know and we will add you to the list.
We only have a couple of weeks before our first pre-launch class, so we're asking all our members to help us increase our profile. Our best form of advertisement is always personal endorsement, so we'd be grateful if you could take a few moments to mention, post, share, recommend and/or spread the word to your friends and colleagues!
We're very excited about the potential of our new karate class in Gosforth and with your support, I'm sure it will become another dojo for us to be proud of :-)
Chris & Jenny
Recently we learned that fellow member Rowan Morgan has decided to give up his place in the closed dojo, due to his studies and other commitments he feels need to take priority in his life at the moment.
Rowan has always been an enthusiastic and valued member of our group and one who will certainly be missed at our Tuesday evening classes. We can all appreciate that this must have been a difficult decision for him to make and one which we all respect.
We'll see you in the open classes Rowan and on behalf of everyone at the closed dojo, we wish you the very best of luck with your endeavours!
Applications are currently open to all of our adult members, who would like the opportunity to take Rowan's place at the closed dojo. Those interested should email us at firstname.lastname@example.org before the closing date on Monday 16th November.
"It is always a pleasure to host our annual Gasshuku. Of course, getting to spend a weekend in a nice hotel, training hard and teaching what I love is an absolute no-brainer. But without doubt, the cherry on the cake is always the pleasure of having such fantastic company. I always leave on Sunday evening feeling so proud to be part of such a wonderful budo family. Well done everyone and long may it continue!"
Our Gasshuku is a weekend training camp held annually where members and long-term supporters of our dojo are invited to 'come together under one roof' for a weekend of intense training.
During this time, participants support each other in their work towards both group and individual goals. We are also provided with the opportunity to get to know our fellow karate-ka better by laughing, chatting and spending time together as a family.
"I really enjoyed the opportunity to learn a new advanced kata, Seisan, but to pin point one activity is difficult because of the variety of sessions that we covered throughout the weekend. But despite the diversity, every session was connected and had a purpose and I genuinely feel that my understanding and attitude towards karate and what we train as a club for has changed for the better."
After checking in to the Crown Hotel on the Friday afternoon, we began with a warm up to prepare us for a physically and mentally demanding weekend to follow. First up was kata intervals - ten forms combined with ten intervals of ten reps of our favourite exercise - burpees!!
This was followed by a pad-work session where we practiced combinations on focus mitts, the main aim of this was to work on maintaining a rhythm, polishing technique and generating impact. We finished off with some close range sparring, with the goal of capitalising on available openings.
Our next session was a new experience for some - hojo undo using chi-ishi. The chi-ishi (strength or power stone) is a concrete weight attached to a wooden pole designed to develop integrated functional strength, muscle coordination and the maintenance of efficient structure. The session focussed on our five core movements, with some time towards the end to try out some supplementary exercises for upper arms and forearms.
To round off what had been a very physical day, we finished with some Mokuso (meditation) to allow us the opportunity to relax, concentrate and reflect upon what we had covered throughout the last few hours.
"The Gasshuku was brilliant as always! Three days of hard work and lots of laughs with good friends is a great way to spend a weekend!"
We were up at 6am on Saturday for some Kundalini Yoga with Catherine Roll. During this we practiced a very energising 'Kriya', with a session that certainly puts mind, body and spirit to the test! There are so many connections between Yoga and Karate, including specialist breathing techniques, building internal pressure to direct energy and efficient postural alignment.
For our next session, sensei provided us with the opportunity to learn one of our more advanced kata - Koryu (old style). In our dojo, this kata isn't usually taught until Shodan level and I think I speak for everyone when I say that we were all impressed by the effort put in by everyone to learn and retain as much as possible.
"I had no idea what to expect from Gasshuku, but it was an unforgettable experience. The training was tough but after each session I always felt fulfilled, and didn't even mind the early mornings. Although I enjoyed every session, my favourite would have to be the Kiko (energy work) session on the Sunday morning and the following fitness and conditioning session. The weekend gave me the opportunity to try so many new things and to network with other like-minded karate practitioners from the dojo, who all made me feel so welcome. I would certainly recommend this event to any of our members."
We then moved on to looking at a comparison of styles with Alison and Warren Grice who demonstrated that, even though different styles of karate, and even martial arts, may differ slightly, the underlying principles are usually inherently the same and this allowed us to think outside the box when it come to practicing bunkai for a selection of movements.
After some time relaxing in the pool and Jacuzzi (or in the case of some, training in the gym or doing five mile runs) we moved on to Peter Hinde's kettlebell session which, as always, wasn't lacking in laughter, good music and lots of hard work. As had become the norm - everyone put in 100% and by the end, we were all pouring with sweat.
We then moved on to another session with sensei, looking at a selection of close-range applications (including parries, small surface striking, joint attacks, predictable response options and takedowns) that took influence from a number of kata. These provided us all with an insight into the importance of tactile awareness and meotode (the positive use of both upper limbs during an altercation).
As is our tradition, we had our participants demos on the Saturday night which covered many different aspects of our training. One group looked at situations where you may be at a disadvantage and provided sound advice on how these may be handled. Another group looked at the different stages of training and how our teachings may vary as students progress through the ranks. My own group even looked at the comparison of the New Zealand haka to a specially designed karate haka!
Participants again woke early on Sunday morning - this time for Kiko (energy work) with Jon Roll. The session involved the practice of Zhan Zhuang, standing completely still in four different positions for seven minutes each, whilst concentrating on your breath, alignment and body sensations. Although this may sound easy, it's actually extremely hard work to accomplish and certainly helped to prepare us all for our last day of training!
After breakfast, Jenny Ling lead us through a demanding fitness and conditioning session. This is always hard work (especially after already covering so much training), however, the energy in the room was electrifying. Jenny even commented that we all looked as fresh as we did on Friday - we still don't know whether these words were down to kindness or bad eyesight :-) We finished the session off with another E.S.K.K tradition - six minutes of high energy drills to music incorporating loads of enthusiasm!
We had some more free time following lunch so some of us decided to take that opportunity to go for a stroll around the surrounding while others experienced the magical healing properties of the Jacuzzi and some continued to train in the gym.
"It's hard to choose a favourite session because they were all so different, yet all united in their camaraderie. All had interesting subjects whether it was physical, spiritual or informative. It was simply a pleasure to spend time with such amazing and like-minded individuals who know the meaning of friendship, support and of course, fun!"
When we walked into Tom Duggan's self defence session, we were promptly asked to split into groups with people of varying ages, karate experience, etc. which provided us with another opportunity to learn more about each other and why we began studying karate.
To start the session we discussed the definition of karate and self-defence and the relationship between them both, before exploring the aspects of the Cooper Colour Codes, target hardening, situational and environmental awareness, which we coupled with the principles we are taught in our dojo syllabus. We also analysed a number of video clips showing real-life altercations, some of which were pretty scary! We had so much to discuss that we ran out of time, so Tom promised to pick up again next year from where we left off!
The finale of what had been a fantastic weekend, were presentations delivered by John Smallman and Lewis Cullen, as a formal requirement for their shodan grading requirements. John discussed the history of karate and the development of the art from Okinawa, how it was influenced and spread across the world. Lewis looked at the development and history of Kushanku Kata, exploring different versions, lineages, techniques and applications. Both presentations were extremely informative and provided those watching with even more ideas and theories for our own personal studies.
I've had the honour of attending all eleven of our Gasshaku's and I've loved every one! Many have brought me a level of discomfort due to the physicality of the training, but this is how we grow. I've been pushed and motivated along the way by my fellow karate-ka and indeed, we've laughed, and over the years got to know each other like a family. We have opened our hearts when distressed and sought advice from good, trusted friends. There is no ego - just lots of hard work, focus, and the genuine enjoyment of each others company.
So here's to next year - Bring it on!
On World Karate Day 2014, 24 E.S.K.K members took part in the first 100 kata Challenge, an event conceived by James Pankiewicz, owner of The DOJO Bar in Naha and director of Challenge Okinawa.
James’ idea was to commemorate the fact that it was on October 25th 1936 that the Ryukyu traditions of Okinawa-te 沖縄手 or Kara-te 唐手 (China Hand) were officially named as Karate 空手 (Empty Hand). In 2005, October 25th became recognised as ”Karate Day” to pray for the expansion of traditional Karate, world peace and happiness.
So this year once again, 24 E.S.K.K volunteers mustered at 22:00 on Saturday 24th October at the home of our Sunday Karate dojo - The Jubilee Community Hall in Cleator.
At exactly the same time, many other dojos around the world were about to start their own 100 kata challenge aligned, as were we, to dawn (06:00) on the island of Okinawa, the Birthplace of Karate.
This year it would be the first time we were registered under our new dojo name of 'Toku Sei Kan' (Hall of Virtue & Sincerity) and it was only fitting that our chosen kata would again be Naihanchi Shodan - our core form. It would also be the first time we would be using the event to raise money for our newly created Community Fund.
Our Community Fund will be the main focus for this and all future fund raising events. We will use cash raised throughout the year to allow us to make a significant charity donation each year as part of our annual celebrations, as well as allowing us to continue our community work (demonstrations etc. to local youth groups) and making the Okinawa karate experience a possibility for more of our members in the future.
If you'd like to sponsor an individual volunteer for this event or make a donation direct to the Community Fund, then please follow the link below...
So as 10pm approached, the volunteers warmed up and lined up for the traditional group photo. The 2015 team was a mixture of “veterans” from last year's event and those for whom this would be a whole new experience and as you can see from the photo above, a wide spectrum of ranks were present.
The veterans knew what was coming. We would each take a turn at leading the kata with Sensei starting and then finishing each set of 25 repetitions. That allowed for 3 short breaks to take on board fluids, dry off quickly and dry the floor from the inevitable amount of condensation produced by 24 determined karate-ka working hard.
Well, at least that’s what we did last year! In the true spirit of our dojo we decided to challenge ourselves a little further by skipping the first break and limiting the others to a much shorter time. Of course it would be a crime if we were to allow the pace to compromise the quality of our individual performances, so each participant would endeavour to deliver the very best they could for every one of those 100 reps. Believe me, we all had to dig deep and of course, it would be remiss of us to not add one extra rep at the end to complete a total of 101 - as Sensei put it, “One more for the dojo!”
We managed to complete the first 50 repetitions in just over 46 minutes and the second 50 in less than 45 minutes. A whiteboard was used to keep count and to record the signature of all participants.
The participants were as follows...
A huge thank you goes out to all who helped and supported this event. In particular, Mr. and Mrs. Mills who stayed to watch their son Dominic perform his 100 kata but also kept count on the whiteboard and took a selection of photos and videos.