Our most recent Gasshuku may have rivaled the Autumn in terms of atmosphere and enthusiasm. It was a delight to train surrounded by students from clubs with which the Honbu has close ties: Queen Camel, Merriot, Milfield and, now, Cardiff University.
Friday night began with an introduction to our ‘Hidden Technique’ – the Kiai. This is something which often goes unappreciated, or comes second to the physical aspects of karate, but Sensei Thompson certainly reminded us that our Kiais can leave us as tired as our physical exertions! A combination of linework and partnered techniques allowed us all to fully demonstrate our inner Chi. Friday also gave us the traditional kata refresher, covering a small range of senior kata. The evening kick started what would turn out to be a very enjoyable weekend.
After the traditional Sensei Thompson warm up and some brisk linework, Saturday took us through a mix of pairs and kata. There was encouragement to use our Hidden Technique while practicing and things quickly became rather loud! We were also reminded to practice everything on both sides of the body – a challenge for some. Kata choices were based on those coming up for grading and included Kushanku, Chinto and Nipaipo. It was good to see those for whom the senior kata are not yet a requirement receiving the opportunity to remain within the main group.
The end of Saturday’s session allowed us all a small amount of free time to practice pairs of our own choosing – for many a rare opportunity to continue preparation for the next belt while under Sensei Thompson’s knowledgeable gaze. It was then time for Hattie Smith and Steve Mortley to take their gradings in front of a small audience of supporters. The pair received their 1st and 4th Dans respectively. I’m sure I can speak for everyone in saying both performances made for very enjoyable viewing.
Sunday morning saw slightly tired, somewhat achey karate-ka returning to the Honbu for the final part of the weekend. The majority of Sunday morning was spent covering traditional bunkai for the kata Chinto. This proved an interesting exercise, with many of us sharing opinions, ideas and preferences concerning what was shown. It allowed us to compare and contrast our beliefs about kata with traditional teachings, and also consider how our own understanding of kata application may be shaped by todays perceived threats and surroundings.
Sunday came to a close with a brief opportunity to test our fighting skills against our peers – something of relevance due to the upcoming National Championships. Many of us enjoy the opportunity to fight within our own clubs and having a change of opponent is always a good test of skills. And so, the Gasshuku was brought to a tired but positive close, with Sensei Thompson once again expressing his appreciation of training within the South West and being able to use the Honbu as a Gasshuku dojo. This feeling of appreciation and gratitude is one which I am sure we can all, in turn, express toward Sensei, both for travelling down to Somerset, and for the hours spent giving us the opportunity to take part in a weekend of intensive training.