That was my 11th summer course on the trot and you’d think I’d be running out of things to say by now. Every year I come back ranting about the new stuff I’ve seen and great people I’ve trained under or with, and every year I write “this one was without doubt one of the best ever”. But it’s true! There is always something new, always something different and always something that you will take away with you to boost your karate for years to come.
This year once again had the added benefit of optional extra pad work training on two days but there was also a Tuesday afternoon Tai Bo session for anyone wishing to try it out, run by Sensei Greg Francis. I wasn’t able to attend but the reports I got back from various people, including those top Gentlemen for Jersey, were all praise and I’m secretly gutted that I had other commitments (being Sempai and the only car driver on the day before a fancy dress party can have its drawbacks).
For me the week started with Sensei Suarez breaking us in superbly with basic and free style combinations to get the blood pumping before handing over to Sensei Greg Francis, who further adapted what had been started with the addition of more combinations focusing on kicks. That familiar summer course burning in my legs was started off nicely by the time Sensei Suarez gave the class to Sensei Francis who managed to drive it home so it stayed for the whole week.
Sunday’s second class gave me a choice of instructors each holding different classes. This is always a hard choice for me because I would gladly train with any Sensei from the instructors list knowing full well that I would enjoy every minute of whatever was on offer. After a moment of panic about which group to join I headed towards Sensei Hazard who was holding a class for the kata Bassai Sho. Sensei Hazard explained that he would be breaking the kata down over the next two lessons, half to help us get the pattern and positioning correct and half with the bunkai so that we understood why the kata was done and how it really worked. I hadn’t ever tried Bassai Sho before but by the end of those two lessons Sensei Hazard had us all moving through the kata with confidence, proudly feeling the burn from the bunkai bruises that reminded us exactly what every step and strike was for.
Monday morning saw my first chance for summer course 2004 training with Sensei Donovan and he took us back to basics with emphasis on good positioning of arms, shoulders, back and the positive use of hip before upping the pace and taking the same principles into free style. He had us switching back and forth between formal practice and free style until they almost blurred in your mind. I think that’s what he was getting across to us, if your basics are poor but you think your free style is good, how can you be truly generating power and accuracy in free fighting. If your basics seem strong but you can’t translate them onto free fighting then you’re not really doing karate you’re just being robotic. One is nothing without the other and the two should be inseparable.
Monday’s 12 O’clock session gave me another choice between Sensei’s and classes but I jumped at the chance to train with Sensei Mottram. Sensei told us that we would be working on Nijushiho and that it would once again be divided over the next two lessons. The bulk of us already had some understanding of this kata so Sensei Mottram jumped right in building and refining what we already knew during the first session before putting us into groups of 4 during the second session so that each individual could perform the bunkai in turn. Sensei had promised us “a good bashing” and we weren’t disappointed. The second lesson ended with each group nominating one person to perform the bunkai while the others attacked and the other groups looking on. I’ve liked Nijushiho since I was first shown it in Poland in 1996, I now love it.
7am Tuesday morning saw the start of the “Fun” run which always seems a bit nasty after the last 6 sessions from the days before, but once you start running and find your pace it’s over before you know it. For me the run meets with early morning complaints from my aching legs but by the end of it they’ve loosened up clearing the stiff muscles and setting me up nicely for the rest of the weeks training. A particularly good warm down and stretch conducted by the runs first place winner sorted out any remaining aches and my legs were looking forward to the next training session…… after a good breakfast.
Tuesday 12 O’clock saw the normal reduction in people training on the field as many took the indoor Referee’s course option. As Sensei Donovan said “strange how so many people decide they want to be Ref’s around the same time every year”. I chose to enter Sensei Hazards class again and he asked the fourteen of us to split into groups and practice the kata of our choice under his guidance. My group of five decided on refining Bassai Sho from our previous lessons and we worked as a team on the very end section repeatedly before combining it into the full kata. This was a technical session at a much slower pace but very satisfying as it added some well needed polish to the kata performance.
My next lesson started on Wednesday morning with Sensei Donovan briefly giving us a reminder of our previous lessons focus on good basics before moving rapidly on to competition techniques. We worked hard to emulate what Sensei was demonstrating for us and things were going at an excellent fast pace. Each change of partner found me facing fellow karateka of all karate styles, ages, abilities and back grounds, all keen to make these techniques work for them and land them against you. The session ended with Sensei upping the pace again with full free fighting and the offer of a medal to anyone who could land the infamous “Ticky Donovan belt pull jodan mawashi geri” combination. Many heads were kicked and many medals were won.
Wednesday 4pm and I was back in Sensei Hazards class for more kata, this time it was Empi. Sensei was set the challenge of teaching the whole kata including much of the bunkai to a class of whom only sixty per cent had seen it before. The pace was fast and I have to admit to getting quite muddled during the middle of the class, but Sensei pulled it off. I only really worked out how much Sensei Hazard had been able to get across to the class when he made us perform the whole kata with our eyes closed. We finished at slightly different times and maybe not in exactly the right place but we had got through it from beginning to end without any external prompting, all this with only 90 minutes coaching
Wednesday night had been fancy dress night and although as the four Elvis’s we had done our very best to stay in the night club past closing, security had “Elvis leaving the building” by around 1.30am. Fuelled on by the thought of a morning off, Elvis number 1, 2, 3 and 4 rocked on back in our chalet till around 3.30 when the fatigue of the combined 10 training sessions finally took there toll. This meant that Thursday’s 4pms training session sounded more like an early morning start than the last lesson of the day. At 4pm the weather didn’t look too good outside and although it later transpired that it never actually rained the threat was enough to split the course up for different timed indoor sessions.
The Dan grades where the first to hit “the sweat room” and I felt a little worried that my performance would be marred by the excesses of the night before. But then Sensei Barber took the floor and used her formidable presence to whip us up into a frenzy of basics building into combinations. I was already going fully pelt and loving it when Sensei Hazard took over. You could feel the buzz around the room as his first demo gyaku zuki smashed out with a resounding crack. We changed training partners regularly and with each change Sensei Hazard added a new technique or element to the building combination. By the end of the lesson we were flying, a combination of competition style steps, blocks, strikes, sweeps and kicks which could have been mind blowing just flowed. We finished by turning it into a semi contest between partners to see who could stop the combination by getting in with a faster attack, rapid block or explosive counter. Yamei seemed to be called all too soon and we all left the room proudly soaked.
Friday morning and we were back on the field in track gear for the final lesson of the course. For the first time of the whole week the weather had finally caught us and heavy rain was pretty much guaranteed to hit the session. The kyu grades were given that lesson off to practise for their gradings later that morning, but the Dan grades were told to get their gi’s on and be back ready to train indoors by 8am. We entered the room and Sensei Donovan immediately took the floor. If anyone there had even the faintest notion that Sensei Donovan wouldn’t match the fever pitched frenzy from Sensei Hazards lesson, it would have been smashed within seconds of his first command. This was the last instructed lesson of the course and it was going to be awesome. The lesson started with line work combinations till everyone was good and warm and then moved on to partner work for competition fighting. We worked on a few bluff and converted techniques designed to confuse your opponent and resulted in some good old fashioned solid digs to and from your partner, the kind that leave those round single knuckle bruises on the ribs for a few days. We then changed to a street orientated section causing maximum damage to a would be attacker, ending in a full knee kick to the face after a combination of close quarter strikes. Sensei Donovan closed the lesson by returning to the first line work combinations only this time with even more speed and power than before. I kiai’d my way from the very first to the very last technique, I was still buzzing from it hours later and I’ve still got a sore throat two days later.
This is only my version of the summer course 2004, other members of my club had different instructors, and in fact between us we were taught by every listed course instructor. I may not have personally had the privilege of being taught by Sensei Phil Francis, Sensei Otto, Sensei Gillespie or Sensei Condon but the wild rantings of my friends about the fantastic lesson they’d just had leave me with no doubt that their experiences were as outstanding as my own.
We only had two club members grading on the course this year and to top off a fantastic week they both got their next belts. Colin Baron is now a second kyu and Steve Riley achieved first kyu. Friday night’s party in the night club was awesome and everyone there was up for a seriously good time. We’d had the Elvis glasses on again earlier in the evening and there was “no stopping us” back in the chalet till 4.30am when a third of our friends finally passed out.
The next Ticky Donovan Open Summer course is from 25th June to 2nd July 2005 and it’s special because it will be the 30th Anniversary course. People travel from all over the world to attend this unique event, if you live anywhere in the UK it’s a virtual crime not to attend. If you like Martial art, if you enjoy training hard, if you want to meet some of the best karateka in the world or if you just love a damn good party you need to be there.
“Lets ‘Ave it!”
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