Tooting Gasshuku 02/2020

So the thing about home gasshukus is that they have the habit of creeping up on you and there is always a correlation between gasshukus and the level of mental-ness at work. No surprise, I was in the middle of mayhem in the office and needing to be out the door a bit earlier than usual to make the often TfL-hindered trip to the dojo on a dark Friday night.

The journals

As is tradition, the Friday was for blackbelts only and judging by the row of shoes outside the door we were in for a busy evening, and we had a few visitors so the dojo was buzzing!

For those of you who don’t know, one of the IOGKF dojo-kun precepts points towards “training your mind and body”, which suits me very well as it’s hard to stop my brain from chewing through stuff and I’m a total training addict. It does mean though that I do look forward to the gasshukus where there is a clear theme…albeit mental or physical. Luckily for me, in Tooting, we get both… Sensei arrived to the dojo with a bunch of journals and with those the theme for the weekend was set… “respect” (敬意).

Looking back through my notes of the weekend we did work through a huge amount of material but at the time, well… it just disappeared. 10 minutes into the class and I’d already forgotten about all the bits and pieces that had plagued my thoughts at work. We had the opportunity to work on Tensho which is one of my favourite of the Heishugata… and then take some of the bunkai and work with a partner. I find this kata fascinating… and I also think that it shouldn’t really appeal to me. Back in the day I was never a kata person, (Heishugata or Kaishugata) preferring to fight over kata training every time. I first learned Sanchin maybe 30 years ago with Julian Mead (as an addendum to our Shotokan training we also studied Yushinkai Karate) but we didn’t learn Tensho. I say ‘learned’ but we all know only a few really know these katas, that said I’m happy to be plugging away at my own ability level.

I left the dojo very happily that evening and somewhat amazed that I am a small part in this huge lineage back to Okinawa. Sensei mentioned a lot of the people whose pictures we have in the dojo… I made a promise to myself to re-read two books that I’ve not revisited in a while.

I went to the dojo a bit earlier on the Saturday to give Sensei a wee breather on what was going to be a marathon 7 hours of teaching for her… it was only after the kids class that I noticed how full the reception area had become. Getting everyone into the dojo was also a challenge but in no time at all the body of the gasshuku was underway.

Now I remember when I changed styles and would arrive to class totally clueless. It was never easy and I would find myself wishing that we would focus on Kumite… ’cause fighting is fighting… right? So when I see junior grades come to class or gasshukus I’m immediately reminded of the feelings I went through (and I was a blackbelt in another style) and the huge amount of physical and mental challenges that are faced in every single class. It takes so much sometimes to just show up, as we lined up for the gasshuku, I was aware that at least the first 2 lines were blackbelts. So hats off to the kyu-grades, I really admire you. And as we think about respect I am reminded of a gasshuku that I attended years ago. It was with Inoue Sensei (Kobudo) and he was teaching a very advanced Sai kata and I was not much more than a beginner. As the class went on he pulled those of us who were clearly struggling aside and taught us himself. Regular readers will know that I have spoken about this a fair few times, after spending ages with us, he thanked us for our efforts. At the end of the gasshuku he went on to thank everyone again for training with him, acknowledging that most of us were Dan grades in other styles and that we had chosen to wear white belts as a sign of respect. I left that gasshuku with nothing but incredible respect for this Sensei.

By Sunday the (my) body and mind were tired, we had studied kata, bunkai, basics… now I’ve trained a lot with Sensei and I was expecting either a bag session to challenge the spirit or a kumite session. This weekend… we got both. 🙂

Didn’t hurt at all 🙂

Kumite is my happy place. I get that this is not the case for a lot of people. But after a weekend of training even I had to admit that I was not entirely looking forward to relentless partner changes and never ending kumite bouts. But in an effort to finish the weekend honourably I got stuck in and thanked my recent training changes. I’ve been doing the same sort of training for years, but after reading an article I’ve added HIIT, weights, kettle bell and fasted cardio… the latter basically means working out first thing in the morning without having had food for… well actually from the night before. It’s not pleasant but then if it worked for Henry Cavill then it must be good… right? My Witcher body is around the corner… I joke, but in honesty this recent training has really helped my training and I even felt good!

Sensei with her copy of the Dojo-kin from Higaonna Sensei’s Dojo

As I mentioned earlier, these weekends can gather their hooves and speed past. At one stage it was 12.30 on Saturday and then it was 3pm on Sunday and we were done. At various points during the weekend Sensei would remind us of our focus and seed further thoughts and then it was onto the physical training.

I liked the nebulous theme of this weekend, there were other themes that Sensei focused on, but respect is something that is very important to me. I thought a lot about what I should say here and how I should say it… and I’m incredibly grateful to have a life that has been influenced by so many giants of the martial arts world. I’ve been spoilt… of that there is no question in my mind… which is why… any step towards greatness deserves respect in my mind, be it a beginner who shows up to a room full of blackbelts or someone who asks for help.

Whether she knew it or not… Sensei Linda really inspired me… I may have gone an odd route to what was expected… but as they say… “train your mind and body”.


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