Göttingen Feb/Mar 2020 Sensei Linda

There is something comforting about the known, the familiar… so it is the nature of humans is to gravitate towards all such things. I’ve said many times that I am forever grateful for my Karate family and my German karate family is extra special. I’ve been going to Göttingen with Sensei Linda for about 5 for 6 years now and it is one of the hardest gasshukus on the calendar. There is a focus on both the mental and the physical side of training at this event and so there is literally no hiding place. 🙂

I’ve mentioned this previously when talking about the Tooting Gasshuku, but it is something that is very important. I’ve furthermore said that there are few gasshukus that I go to where the name Sensei Steve Cattle is not mentioned. I found myself being the one to bring him up at this Gasshuku whilst talking to one of the German Yudansha, who was also also by co-incidence, my host for the weekend. I mentioned him because he was one of the first karateka to run gasshukus where there was this focus. Of course I was way to young to recognise the value of this sort of teaching but now I’m very much aware of just how special this approach really is. 

Many ask me why I go to gasshukus and if there is something that I am seeking and my answer is always pretty straightforward, I love training. That’s a given, I’m a great fan of travel also and living in London it was a huge pleasure this weekend to take the role of wildlife spotter from the back seat of the car as we sped from Hannover to Göttingen. For those who are happy with these responses I’m pretty happy to leave them with their answer and to go along with my business. But the truth is much more… I consider myself a student of karate, with that comes being a student of people and this then breaks down to the mental and the physical aspects of how all of the above comes together. A gasshuku is like a melting pot of the above all mashed into a single weekend.

This Gasshuku was planned at the last moment really, (from my point of view) I had fallen into January and with all the challenges of work I was late to look at flights etc. I was so disorganised that I started to look at flights to the wrong airport. Once the flag had gone up that I was going then my karate family in Göttingen started to reach out and offer accommodation. This for me is the key thing that separates our martial art from other sports. Rather than have competition in the true sense, we want to have people in the dojo to train and test ourselves with, and I use the word with and not against. 

I was further challenged this weekend as I was asked to teach at what has now become the kumite class that I teach for Sensei Thomas in his school. Over the years the class has grown and fallen in number in a cyclical fashion dependent upon the students and their journey through secondary school. This year I was expecting a small crowd however students travelled from other dojo’s to join and so we had a good sized group, all of whom were keen to learn. So fresh off the flight there I was teaching the first class of the weekend. (For clarity this is not part of Sensei Lindas Gasshuku this is just a small class I teach for Sensei Thomas to help out in his school)

Wee Kumite Class!

But it’s a great way to work off the flight and to prepare for the weekend. It’s also a challenge to teach in a different language and yet still get your message across. I love this class, the energy is immense! Sensei Cattle always advised people to get as much as they could out of life, to try and find the unusual, or to just do something to expand your horizons. For me this is one way to expand my horizons. 

Over the course of the weekend many people came and went from the Gasshuku depending on their work/family schedules. This is normal in a Gasshuku and is important to recognise that people give what they can to Karate and this should be respected. For everyone standing in the line there is a sacrifice that has been made, be it to travel, to leave a partner or a family or rest after a busy weekend. 

As Sensei started the Gasshuku on Friday we were encouraged to look at our karate from a physical and mental standpoint, furthermore we were to “be courageous”. This courage was not only to be sought in our karate but also that we should look to find courage in our personal lives. I consider myself lucky to have a deep relationship with many of the karateka in the dojo and I know that many have overcome personal challenges to be in the room, never mind to try and do the karate that we are studying. Sensei has an innate ability to recognise those who need extra support and is at pains the ensure that there is nothing wrong with making a mistake. In fact, in some cases, this proves that the karateka is working hard! 

As with all gasshukus there are parts where there is more comfort than others, some people prefer Kata, others Kumite and we would study a wide range of topics over the weekend. In fact, as I sat in the kitchen of my wonderful host we were at pains to recall just how much we had covered and not just at a superficial level but deep and with the reminder to challenge each other and to be courageous. 

My partner for the weekend is a wonderful karateka who is highly experienced and blessed with both technique and speed all underpinned with an incredible strength. Together we pushed each other to the point that during one of the drills we were aware that to the outsider it might appear we were kicking several colours of sh1t out of each other, when in fact we were having the time of our lives. Mistakes and “not quite right” techniques were addressed and dealt with and there was no ego. Red faces all round and through out every day… smiles on both sides. This is the sort of training that I feel brings the very best out of everyone, all delivered via the teaching of Sensei Linda.

It seemed like the entire Gasshuku went for dinner on Saturday night and the banter continued. I was incredibly happy with my steak which was almost the size of my head. A very happy Ciara went to bed with a food baby that night! 🙂

The purpose of these blogs is not to go through a list of what we studied, for that the easiest is to train with Sensei, I can guarantee that there will be no disappointments. Rather to shine a light on what we were looking to find from the weekend, for me this is the thing that will stay with me over and above the techniques. I was happy that everyone in the room was committed to the training. Moreover, during dinner and breaks there was a great sense of commonality and commitment to learning, I noticed several times, senior grades taking time during breaks or at lunch to help junior grades improve on their kata or a given technique.

I think this is why the Gasshuku in Göttingen is so special, I alway come away tired on all fronts yet also enthused beyond all belief. I really want to say a huge “Thank you” to everyone I trained with, to the organisers and my incredible host… as well as Sensei Thomas for all the driving… first time I’ve ever heard “Fahren Sie 117 km geradeaus”, from a Sat Nav! To be fair, he did say “I gave my best to make the 117km be felt like 50km. 😂” So great effort!

I did write much of this report on the flight home, I am polishing it after the longest Monday ever… post Gasshuku fatigue is real. For me, just getting to this Gasshuku was a win, I’d had so much bad luck beforehand (bag stolen, office broken into and loads of other shite) so for me just being in the dojo was such a big deal.

So goodbye Göttingen for another year, I’ll be back tho… I might even be brave enough to try Haxe… and next time more time to hike in the wonderful landcape!