On Sunday 10th April I travelled to the Masters of Shotokan Course, St Matthews Community Centre, Leicester, with my Sensei Peter Manning 6th Dan, one of the four instructors teaching, and Ken Pilbrow 6th Kyu. It was a beautiful sunny day and our journey to Leicester, from the West Country, took about three hours. Both Ken and myself train at Sensei Manning's main Dojo in Mere, Wiltshire.
The instructors teaching on the course were Tony Conroy 7th Dan, hosting the event, Cyril Cummins 7th Dan, Slater Williams 6th Dan and as previously mentioned, my Sensei, Peter Manning 6th Dan.
The course started at twelve o'clock and consisted of four sessions with each instructor teaching for fifty minutes. There were ten minute breaks in between with free refreshments available to all. The number of students that attended was approximately seventy with a mixture of grades, adults and children, up to black belt.
Time was at a premium, so we were introduced to all the instructors, and then had a quick group photograph. After a standing bow and warm-up we began.
We were then all divided into our various groups, according to our grade, and assigned to our first instructor, which as a Yudansha (Black Belt), was Sensei Tony Conroy. Sensei Conroy started by getting us to lay out mats, for his ippon kumite (one step sparring) routines, that would involve sweeps and take downs. We each had a partner and the routines were made up of attacking oi zuki (stepping punch), mae geri (front kick), kekomi (thrust) and ushiro geri (back kick) forward then blocking and defending with empi (elbow), teisho (palm heal), zuki (punch) strikes, taking down and then trapping and locking the arm/leg and zuki or geri attacks with the kakato (heal) to the body.
These routines really made you work hard, and by the time I had started to grasp, and get a feel for what I was doing, the fifty minute session was up. It was interesting to watch Sensei Conroy's routines because I could definitely see his Ju Jitsu and Aikido roots in some of the techniques that he was showing us.
The second instructor to teach us was Sensei Cyril Cummins 7th Dan. Sensei Cummins taught us Meikyo kata (Bright Mirror) which I did not know, was very impressed with when ever I had seen it being performed, and had always wanted to learn. Sensei spent a lot of time teaching us the correct movement/bunki (application) to the jumping forearm attack to the head ending by landing in shoto uchi/kokutsu dachi (knife hand strike/back stance). We then practised this part of the kata with a partner and there was a very strong emphasis put on the correct spirit and attitude required.
The routine required the defender to have his back to the attacker in kokutsu dachi/double ura zuki (uppercut punch) and then turn defending age uke (upper rising block), to an incoming oi zuki (stepping punch), jump with a forearm smash to the head and landing behind the attacker striking shuto uchi/kokutsu dachi and then a take down and zuki strike to the attacker.
Sensei Cummins also explained why this kata's original Chinese name, Rohai, had been changed by Master Funakoshi to the Japanese name of Meikyo and this was done because all things Chinese were no longer popular with the Japanese people at that time. I would say that this was obviously due to Chinese-Japanese war that started in 1937, and therefore it would have been being politically correct, at the time, to rename all the original Chinese named kata with new Japanese names, which Master Funakoshi did.
Sensei Cummings also taught us a different variation on Taikyoku Shodan (Kihon) kata which involved stepping and/or spinning and stepping away from the attacker.
Our third instructor was Sensei Slater Williams 6th Dan. He started of by teaching us the footwork yori ashi (slide step front leg), tsugi ashi (back leg slides to the front leg) and stepping for making the correct distance for kizami zuki (jab punch), step forward oi zuki (stepping punch) and gyaku zuki (reverse punch). We then did routines involving maeashi-mai geri (front leg kick) back leg mae geri (front kick), maeashi-mawashi geri (front leg round house kick) back leg mae geri and then adding kekomi (thrust) and ushiro geri (back kick). We then did the same combination of kicks adding kizami zuke (jab punch), gyaku zuke (reverse punch) and uraken (back fist).
We then next did a one step routine, with a partner, and this consisted of the attacker stepping forward oi zuke jodan (stepping punch to the head) and the defender blocking age uki (upper rising block) and punching gyaku zuke (reverse punch). The defender then attacked with the same routine back the other way.
The last instructor of the day was Sensei Peter Manning 6th Dan. We started of by doing a routine of oi zuke (stepping punch), mae geri (front kick), mawashi geri (round house kick), all in zenkutsu dachi (front stance), landing shuto uke kokutsu dachi (knife hand block back stance). We then turned with shuto uchi (knife strike) to the groin, teisho uchi (palm heal strike) and empi uchi (elbow strike )to the forearm as performed in Heian Godan.
We then paired up with a partner to do a one step routine which involved the attacker stepping forward oi zuke chudan (stepping punch stomach), the defender blocking soto uke (outside to inside block), then stepping forward uraken (back fist) followed by gyaku zuki (reverse punch) and the defending blocks to these attacks being nagashi uke (flowing block), otoshi uke (dropping block) and gyaku zuki (reverse punch).
The last routine we did for the day, with Sensei Manning, was geared to a street reality situation. This was done with a partner and required both sides to be in sanchin dachi (hour glass stance). The attacker had to swing a right mawashi zuki (round house punch), then a left mawashi zuki to the head followed by ura zuki (upper cut punch) to the stomach. The defender then blocked both swinging punches and finally a otoshi uke (dropping block) to the ura zuki (uppercut punch). Sensei taught us that sanchin dachi was a very strong stance, especially, for close quarter combat, protecting vital areas of body. He also emphasised the correct state of mental awareness required for street reality situations and how this type of training can be beneficial to instructors and students.
The day finished at four o'clock and I thought that the course format and content worked really well. I was amazed at how quickly each fifty minute lesson went by, especially when you consider that the total training time was close to four hours in one day. I thought that this was an excellent course, very worthwhile attending and felt that each instructor, with their many years of training, had a great deal to offer. I am sure that everyone on the course took away something interesting and beneficial for their own personal training. I definitely know that I did.
Ian Spraggs 3rd Dan
Traditional Shotokan Karate Association (TSKA)