I’m calling it a Gasshuku- Tooting does Wimbledon Common

A few things make a long weekend special, when there is a meeting of sunshine, seeing people in person and karate well… that’s destined to be banging. The situation in the UK regarding Covid-19 is getting a bit better and we now have pubs and restaurants open, in fact, the weekend before last was the first time that I had been out for dinner in literally a year. Dojos are now allowed to open with strict rules in place but they are allowed to open. This comes at a time when we are in between dojo locations. The good news is that we have a new venue, the slightly less good news is the fact that it is still under renovation. Then an email arrives that fills me with so much hope.

We are going to be training in Wimbledon Common over the course of the Bank Holiday Weekend. This is a huge park on the outskirts of Wimbledon and is visited by hundreds of people every day and it is a place that has some history with our dojo. For many years we have had a dojo picnic in the same spot. We’ve played rounders, had water fights and spent many days scrubbing our feet afterwards.

The winter here was long, we had stolen one day of training in the common before the last lockdown and had been subject to a series of broken promises regarding how the lockdown easing was going to happen, so part of me did wonder if we would actually get to train together at all. Then there was the weather, a moveable feast in the UK and a daily topic of conversation. I’d made the commitment that I was going training no matter the state of the weather, but by the Wednesday before the training, news started to come in that the weather was going to be outstanding. More than that, it was going to be a good 10C hotter on the named day for training than it had been all week. There was even talk of bringing suncream. Almost the stuff of myth.

So we were looking to a weekend of training, for some reason I also decided to add to the mix by doing a cycling challenge. Haleakala, a volcano in Hawaii, 5 x 1 hour rides online with 10 mins recovery in between. So Saturday was a bit of a blur, karate done, I headed to this challenge and by Sunday morning I was, once again, in my house-dojo for training. The expected sore legs were not in evidence, I just felt really tired and thought it an idea to wring out my legs with a cycle, this 1 hour was worse than the 5 hours.

Then came the day of training. I was joining for the children’s class and so, going on the fact that my legs were fine on the day after the challenge I was up and out of bed and then, yes, you guessed it… I went down the stairs sideways and made that sound that old people make when bending over. Still no pain, but just dead. Dead legs. I was shattered.

Here is a PSA, it’s a long way and a big hill from Wimbledon Train Station to The Common. I was also a wee bit late so I was yomping. Finally I could see the corner where we usually met and it was full of people! Everyone was wearing a karate t-shirt of some sort and now that hugging is legal… there were hugs!!! I can’t describe how lovely it was to see everyone. Loads of the kids showed up and I don’t know who was more happy them or the parents. We had an hour of training before the class swapped over to adults. Strangely, we’ve been doing more training on line than we did before Covid and it was great to see how everyone had maintained their levels.

My legs were not so good, at one point it looked like we were going to be doing a kicking series all the way to a tree about half a mile away… I won’t tell you how sore Seiunchin felt. All that disappeared in comparison with how lovely it felt to train with everyone. To actually Kai. Respecting my neighbours, I’ve not been making any more noise than the constant stamping and thudding so I haven’t felt comfortable to kai and now in the huge vastness of the park here we were and we could make noise. I choked back a few tears towards the end of the kids class and was just ecstatic to be training with the adults. I even met some of the dojo members for the first time as they had joined when we were in lockdown (kudos for that btw).

The temperature hit 25C and I must say thank you to the people who brought and shared suncream. After training we had tea almost like being in the dojo and then a few of us headed to the pub! It was literally the perfect day and I cannot wait to do it all over again! Soon I hope. Thank you to everyone and especially Sensei Linda for a cracking day!

The band is back together!

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