Senseis Alan, Grant, and Robin have just returned from a fantastic week of training with Sensei Dimitrijevic in Loutraki, Greece. The week was fantastic offering up varied and intensive training, a great social atmosphere and, of course, plenty of sunshine.
The focus of the week, as ever, was on grounding, control of the hara, and breathing. Things began with breathing patterns, using the misogi, ibuki, and haku formats, linking these with pelvic rotation and hara tension to connect the lower and upper parts of the body. This may sound simple, but proves to be surprisingly tricky, especially once movements begin. All too often the pelvis drops out, the tension in the hara loosens, or, and this proved to be the biggest challenge of the week, the breathing and movement time were out. Breathing should initiate the movement and the moment of kime should come with the completion of the movement and the technique together (unless otherwise instructed). Not only that you must be grounded with the floor, controlling the pelvis and hara (so there is no wobble or loss of energy transfer), and compressed.
Compression proved to be a very important as the week progressed. Pressing down from the hara, through the legs, and 100m down to be rooted to the floor. This sounds rigid and inflexible, but the key is to have tension and compression in the correct way, leaving your knees ready to flow through the movement. Therefore compression x hara/pelvis control x breathing x fluid knees = fast movement + immense power. These intricacies are what makes Kase-Ha such a challenge, and Sensei Vebo's demand for a very high level of quality, and focus to detail meant there was no hiding.
The beauty of training in Kase-Ha, especially with Sensei Vebo, is that you leave the dojo feeling refreshed, awake, and usually with plenty left in the tank to keep going. Why would you want to crawl out of the dojo, exhausted, only to suffer in the next session with lactic acid build up and painful muscles. The pacing of the session let you expend a lot of energy, and then recover, expend, recover, and so on. Everyone felt fresh every day, tired, but not aching. Karate is, after all, about self-defense - correct practice to defend against the harm we can cause ourselves. Esentially we take energy from ourselves and then replace that energy. This is Yin Yang, or Go Ju.
Downtime in Greece is all about the sunshine. Lazing by the pool, going for a dip, visiting Loutraki town to take a break from the Sports Camp where we were based, a couple of cool beers (but not too many, of course). Karate is the topic of conversation wherever we went, talking excitedly about the days training, discussing the concepts of Kase-Ha, and ideas for our own training at home.
As always the week goes far too quickly and soon it was time to end. Tired legs and minds (probably the closest I'll get to Mushin), but big smiles, and excitement about next year. There was still time for a bit more sun, some delcious Greek food by the Mediterranean, and more karate chatter.
A big congratiulations to John Sharp, from Oxford Kase Ha Shotokan Ryu Karate‑Do, for passing his Nidan grading! Well done!
Sensei Dimitrijevic will be back in the UK for the course run by Oxford Kase Ha Shotokan Ryu Karate‑Do in October. Details can be found HERE.
After the success of the Tewkesbury course this year we will also be running another course in April 2019. Details to follow. In the meantime you can get your Kase-Ha fix, or come and try it out, with Sensei Armstrong who is running a one day seminar on 8th July.