On Sunday 30th November 2014, over 50 E.S.K.K dojo members gathered at The Marchon Social Club in Whitehaven to undertake our final karate grade examination of the year.
As usual, the general standard was high and it was clear that many had spent the last few weeks training extra hard for the opportunity to challenge their next rank. As we move forward into a new syllabus and lesson structure from January, it was felt by the grading panel that the performances on the day had been a very fitting 'end of an era'.
The grading results are detailed below. Well done to everyone who challenged themselves as it is never an easy task and you done us all very proud! Special congratulations also goes to Alison and Warren Grice, who both attained 'Distinction' - a level reserved only for exceptional standards.
Finally, a big thank you to John, Lewis, Sophie and Jenny for their assistance, plus not forgetting all the seniors who attended to help support their fellow members...always upholding the positive qualities and camaraderie that makes our dojo so very special!
Held a little later than usual this year over the Halloween weekend, our training camp has become a regular annual event where members and close supporters of the karate dojo are invited to meet "under one roof" for a weekend of very focussed training.
The event (as for the previous 7 years) was held at the wonderful Crown Hotel at Wetheral and reflecting the expansion of our group over recent years, we had more new members attending than ever. Each of the 20+ participants would spend from Friday lunch time to late on Sunday afternoon immersing themselves in a variety of focussed seminars around the themes of traditional karate, self-defence, fitness and personal development, building on the deep camaraderie that has become the hallmark of E.S.K.K. This was emphasised by the addition for the first time, of some of our junior members who arrived for two special seminars on the Sunday afternoon. They took away some valuable lessons and had plenty of fun too!
So what did we all learn this year? Well one key theme at the heart of all traditional karate is civilian self-defence. We were (trick or) treated to a demonstration of awareness and layers of defence that was also reflected in a self protection session more dedicated to the juniors on the Sunday afternoon. The seniors had by that time, already practised some self-defence drills for gaining the initiative, continuing dominance, getting back to your feet, understanding the strategies for dealing with multiple attackers and learning about how everyday objects may, in exceptional circumstances, be used as improvised weapons to defend oneself in a potentially violent encounter.
We also spent a number of sessions focussing on how our own body's work and how, with better self-awareness we can make the best use of what we have. As well as the opening session of warm up and stretching, early morning sessions of Taiji (from fellow member, Kerry Wright) and Kundalini Yoga (taught by Catherine Roll) put mind, body and spirit to the test. The lessons within these disciplines concerning posture and "softening" of the muscles to achieve better structural alignment were most readily transferable to our study of karate.
We were also privileged to have as part of our membership this year Elaine Ashford and Helen Rowe, both medical professionals who were able to deliver a most entertaining, unusual and educational session that allowed us to become more aware of particular muscle groups, kinetic chains and how our brains establish their position and orientation in space. Along with partners we experimented on how our new found understanding could improve our self-awareness during repeated performances of Naihanchi Kata. We even took a look at how many participants may have adapted their movement to overcome restrictions or disabilities in order to still be able to draw huge benefits from traditional karate practice. More informally, I think we then all found a huge benefit in the understanding of muscle relaxation through use of the Crown Hotel's fantastic pool, jacuzi and steam room!
As well as learning about our bodies, we also endured several tough workouts over the weekend. Functional fitness was the focus on Friday evening as Jonathan Roll delivered a hugely demanding physical attributes session followed by a traditional hojo-undo workout using chi-ishi led by Chris Denwood. Peter Hinde delivered a very challenging kettlebell workout on Saturday morning (with his own added fun and infectious humour) and as ever, everyone put in 100% effort to reap the very best from these sessions. By Sunday morning our tired bodies had only just about enough left to step up to Jenny Ling's Enduro-Strike workout. Jenny infectiously injected just about enough fun and motivation to allow us all to use every last ounce of energy to thoroughly enjoy what has become one of the signature sessions to our training camp!
As is also normal at the training camp to study different kata and explore their applications. On Friday afternoon, Chris Denwood demonstrated and taught a version of Aragaki Sochin Kata and then split us all off into groups with specific sections to analyse for combative application, coming together again towards the end to share findings. Lewis Cullen treated us to his years of experience in performing and judging kata competition to help improve our solo performances. One of our relatively new members and recent addition to the closed dojo, Warren Grice, demonstrated for us the Shotokan version of Naihanchi kata (Tekki Shodan) and Jonathan Roll explained to us all some of the key differences between the styles and potential applications. We also like to experiment with different traditional weapons and this year, Chris Denwood chose to demonstrate and teach us all some traditional kobudo kata using nunchaku. Weapon training always offers a new dimension martial study and helps to highlight the similarities to the empty hand forms in both posture and body dynamics.
What always makes this event so special is the true spirit of karate shown in everyone's mutual support and willingness to push themselves and others, whilst at the same time having collective fun. Never better would it be illustrated over the weekend than in the support given to the juniors by seniors in the final group session on nunchaku basic swings and strikes - One of many aspects that made this a truly family event!
New and old members alike mixed in sessions over the weekend, in congregation around the dinner table and of course around the bar for a couple of 'medicinal' drinks in the evenings. Experiences were shared, newcomers welcomed and many a shaggy dog story told in the name of camaraderie and mutual support.
I asked some attendees to sum up their experience of this year's training camp in a single sentence, which I think would end this brief report beautifully...
From Senior Participants...
Not just a Gasshuku, but an E.S.K.K Gasshuku!
Amazing - physically and mentally challenging, plus a real sense of enlightenment.
Both a technical and physical weekend that was ultimately highly rewarding.
Great training, lovely food and top company!
Loved every minute - if only it could have lasted longer.
Great training + great venue + great friends = E.S.K.K Gasshuku!
Always a top experience - this year was no exception, from early starts to late night chats at the bar!
From Junior Participants/Parents...
I learned how to be safer every day and I also learned how to use nunchucks - brilliant!
Awesome - just awesome!
Hi didn't want to leave, but then couldn't wait to get home and practice some more!
She had an amazing time today. Chris & Jenny's personal safety lessons should be taught to all kids!
It's always a pleasure to teach and share knowledge at the training camp. It's also a delight to discover new insights from other instructors.
I really enjoy teaching at the Crown Hotel because there is always such a fantastic energy from all the members.
I was so happy to see all the new faces at the class this year and how much they all enjoyed it - no doubt they collapsed into their beds exhausted and exhilarated!
The support I received from everyone put me at ease straight away so teaching them was a thoroughly enjoyable experience!
It's always great to see everyone come together, join in and support each other.
What more can I say? If you're a member of our dojo then be sure to sign up for next year...You won't regret it!