There are gasshukus that stay with you for a range of different reasons and the Gasshuku in Eastleigh is certainly one of those. At this Gasshuku Sensei Paul Nolan and Sensei Peter Galen were teaching so I was sure it was going to be a challenging weekend. Unfortunately I was unable to attend the Friday night due to the distance from London and the time it would take me to get there, so on a very wet and miserable Saturday morning I set off for a small venue near to Southampton… all of which were unknown to me and left me utterly dependant on my Sat Nav. Worth noting that my Sat Nav has, for some reason decided to adopt a pretty strong Irish accent… just to add to the comedy factor.
I was really looking forward to getting out of London to be honest. I have come off the back of a fair few miserable weeks, I was pretty ill with colds and stomach bugs since Christmas and to add insult to injury my bag was stolen after a work event and in it many of the components of my life. Those who cycle to work and train in the same day will recognise just how much you need to fit into a single bag. All was lost, yet I remain forever grateful that my belt was not in the bag. Small mercies and all that.
So, with 1.5l of coffee in the car I braved the horizontal rain on the way to Eastleigh. We all have a story as to why we end up doing Karate and for some it’s more complicated than others. All however, end up in the dojo training together. So after almost 2.5 hours of what should have been a 1.5 hour journey I was outside a school being told that I had “reached my destination”.
All it takes is a Kenkon to be sure of a venue and out of the corner of my eye I see the sign that would let me know I was in fact in the right place… along with 30 other souls.
The hall was beautiful… but freezing… the sort of cold that ensures toes are lost to perma-cold and breath hangs in the air to turn to miniature snow showers. I joke of course, there was no snow, but it was bloody cold.
Ten minutes into the training and I had the opposite problem, I was roasting. Back in the day I was encouraged by my kobudo Sensei at the time to find a time, at least once a month where you pushed yourself out of your comfort zone. Not just a little, but like totally out of it. This was, in his opinion the only way to see if there had been an improvement in training and as a result an improvement in development. I knew going into this training that there was every possibility that this was going to happen.
This I am welcoming of, this I know leads to development and this is yet still in my comfort zone. This is training that I should do more often, rather I prefer to repeat kara many times when I know this just means I am being too lazy to do proper training. I should write an article about that but now is not the time.
No today my “uncomfortable zone” was kumite. Yes, an unusual admission for me, however, after all the illness and missed training I was unsure as to just how far I could push myself, actually, how much I was going to be able to take. Would I survive, or would I be in a heap in the corner trying to catch a breath. The week before the Gasshuku I’d been coughing a lung at the mere thought of training, now I was standing in a hall full of people who were all giving it loads.
Of course we started well and through kata and kihon we warmed out stalagmite bodies and started to find fluidity of movement in our training. We broke down katas to component parts and repeated these at infinitum, until we were at the point, well at least I was where I was broken… in fact both my kata and I were broken. I literally lost the ability to do these kata at all. Every technique I tried to do “better” than when I arrived was now alien to me… my katas were in essence “broken”.
I was fine in the end, the training on Saturday seemed to last forever, we went from Kata to Kumite and onto bag work and back to Kata. For me the mental aspect was as important as the physical. At one point my lungs must have been glowing red from the top of my chest and I was sure that I was going to have to throw in the towel. We covered so much over the weekend and I tried to look at every section as a new study, the training from the Senseis was excellent of course, I won’t go through a list of what was covered rather to draw attention to the struggles during the day. If I was struggling, I was extremely impressed with a white belt who joined the class. She had only been training for a total of 6 weeks but she gave it her all. At one point the senior grades were facing to the middle of the room and the same for the junior grades as we did Kihon. It’s funny, sometimes people are in awe of “Senior” grades, but I was more impressed by this white belt who came to a room full of blackbelts and was training hard and strong. This was where I took a huge amount of inspiration!
It was a cracker of a Gasshuku, one of the most physically demanding I have done in a long time. Of course it was lovely to meet my EGKA Family from down south again and I was delighted I made the effort to drive into Southampton for dinner, my cheeks were in fact tired from the laughing!
Well done to all in Eastleigh Dojo who made the entire event such a pleasure… and to Jason Roe who I trained with for most of the weekend!