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Karate Summer School - 11th August 2003

Karate Summer School 2003

Train With the Champions 2003

Lancaster University, 11th - 15th August 2003


Sensei Andy Sherry (7th Dan)
Sensei Terry O'Neill (6th Dan)
Sensei Bob Poynton (6th Dan)
Sensei Bob Rhodes (6th Dan)
Sensei Billy Higgins (6th Dan)
Sensei Frank Brennan (6th Dan)

On Sunday 10th August 2003, karateka gathered at Lancaster University for the 23rd karate summer school. As well as travelling from all over the UK, there were visitors from around the world, including Zimbabwe and Kazahkstan. There were many of the usual faces who return year after year. Jemma Mitcham, the JKA Europe grand champion and Matthew Price, a KUGB grand champion, were amongst the British squad members who regularly attend the course. This year's turnout was as strong as ever with approximately 150 karateka attending.

The general format of the course is the same every year. Training begins at 8am each day and consists of two lessons (with a break for breakfast in between), finishing the training for the day at around 1pm. The rest of the day is free for relaxing, socialising and taking part in any extra activities that have been organised. The training is based around the three elements of Shotokan Karate, that is Kihon, Kata and Kumite.

On Monday morning, around the campus, karateka were waking up full of anticipation. For the Dan grades, we knew what to expect. After the warm-up, we started off with our first lesson with Sensei Sherry. The rest of the class is split into three groups - brown belts, 7th to 4th kyu and beginner to 8th kyu, each with a different instructor. So with four groups and six instructors, there are always a couple of instructors wandering around during the lessons. For the Dan grades, this meant that as well as having Sensei Sherry taking the lesson, we had Sensei Brennan keeping a watchful eye over us for a large part of the session. After practising punching combinations and developing it into jyu ippon kumite, Sensei Sherry took us through the kata Jion.

After breaking for breakfast, the Dan grades were instructed by Sensei O'Neill. Sensei O'Neill's unique perspective always keeps everyone entertained. We practised mae geri attacks, following up with a variety of different punches as our opponent tried to escape. After the lesson we all went outside for the annual group photograph

On Monday afternoon, if we had any energy left, Mr Ian Maclaren, a 4th Dan in Shotokan Karate and the author of several books on the history of martial arts, took a Bo (fighting staff) class. These lessons normally start with basic techniques with the Bo and then move on to kata and bunkai. There was also an opportunity to attend another Bo class on Tuesday afternoon.

Tuesday morning was Sensei Poynton's turn with the Dan grades. The emphasis was on basics and distance. We practised 1-step kumite, making sure that our basic technique was correct and that our counter-attacks were hitting the target. We finished the lesson with the katas Jion and Gankaku.

In the afternoon, the Dan grades were instructed by Sensei Rhodes. For all the regulars on this course, one word springs to mind - "Bunkai". We started off with some long combinations which fitted together to make some excellent (although mentally challenging) jyu ippon style combinations with a partner. For the rest of the lesson Sensei Rhodes taught us Bunkai for some of the moves in the kata Gankaku.

Tuesday night was the official "social evening". A disco was arranged for the youngsters, as the adults relaxed in the bar area. However, the "older generations" soon realised that the kids were actually having much more fun, and by the end of the evening the dance floor was full of karateka of all ages.

Wednesday morning, and nearly everyone made it to the first session at 8am. We were all starting to feel a bit stiff by this time (slight understatement), but we were assured that we would be feeling a lot better on Thursday. New karateka frequently turn up on Wednesday to the course, and we secretly cursed them as they looked as fresh as we had been on the Monday! Our first lesson was with Sensei Higgins. This followed a similar format to Tuesday's lesson with Sensei Rhodes, with long combinations that fitted together with a partner, and then going on to do some more imaginative Bunkai, this time for the kata Bassai Sho.

There was a longer than normal break between sessions on Wednesday, as Ian Maclaren provided us with a very interesting lecture. This gave us all a good insight into how Japanese culture is different to our own.

After the lecture it was back into the training hall to prepare for our lesson with Sensei Brennan. The lesson started with some punching and kicking combinations. We then went on to do partner work, attacking with numerous punches and later with kicks. The emphasis during this exercise was on correct distancing and footwork whilst defending, and speed and fluidity whilst attacking. We finished the lesson with more work on the kata Bassai Sho.

Wednesday afternoon was the "unofficial" darts match held at the Bowling Green in town. This year it became a Northerners vs. Southerners battle. Sensei Rhodes was a key player in the Southerner's team, much to the disappointment of the Leeds lads who used to train under him! It was one of the most competitive darts matches the course had seen, with the South eventually emerging victorious.

Thursday morning, and the stiffness was starting to wear off. The Dan grades started the day with Sensei Sherry. Another excellent session, with nowhere to hide as Sensei Brennan roamed the room once more! We finished the lesson with the kata Tekki Sandan.

The second lesson for the Dan grades on Thursday was with Sensei O'Neill. Again, we worked on mae geri, with the emphasis this time on making an effective attack. We also did some work on reactions, trying to beat an attacker to the punch by eliminating any telegraphing of techniques, and then went on to do double-leg sweeps.

Thursday afternoon is always the time of the Superstars competition. This is a "friendly" event, where the black belts compete against the kyu grades in basketball, penalty shootouts, sprinting, tug-of-war and sumo wrestling. The black belts are always the favourites to win (and the Senseis would expect nothing less) and did not disappoint this year. The turnout was one of the best we had ever seen, with adults and children all keen to play their part. The Dan grades comfortably won the penalty shootouts and the sprinting but the other events were much closer, especially the final event, the tug of war, which the Dan grades managed to only just hold on to - literally! The Dan grades were the champions once again.

On Friday, we finish the training off with only one lesson in the morning. Sensei Poynton took the Dan grades for some basics and partner work before revising the katas that we had worked on during the week.

After the final lesson, we just had time to shower and have some breakfast before returning to the training hall to watch the grading examinations. An air of nervous tension filled the hall, as the hopeful students put on an excellent show of attitude and determination. As always, there were both successful and disappointed students, but they could all go away with their heads held high.

So that was the end of another successful summer school at Lancaster. A week filled with dedication, effort, camaraderie and spirit, along with expert instruction from some of the most talented and successful karate-ka that this country has produced. It's no wonder so many people keep coming back!

The successful grading candidates were as follows:

Shodan passes

David P Beal, Cayton
Michael Blair, Tekki
Toni K Blezard, Lancaster
Meredith Cane, Tekki
Sid Casey, Red Triangle
James Clarkson, Hutton
Dawn A Cross, Myerscough
Stephen Cross, Myerscough
Barry Dawson, Hutton
Chris Denny, Backwell
Alan Ewing, Bath
Peter F Kell, Manchester University
Rosemary Kirk, Aberystwyth
Victor Kunin, Cambridge University
Emma V Mason, Cayton
Stephen McCormick, Formby
Odette Renshaw, Isle of Man
Vivianne Watson-Smith, Tekki

Nidan Passes

Selina Farwell, Torbay
Matthew S Russell, Cayton

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