Armstrong Black Belt Camp 2016
Last training Sunday morning has finished, two hours of train has flown by. Another first class camp comes to an end.
Some of the key points of the weekend for me were:
At this camp we trained in a well layout progression, how to take a new student and move them forward.
Starting with Kihon (the Foundation for Everything)
Then moving to Kihon Combination Techniques
Next came Ido Geiko, training 6 different ways of movement
We trained Kata, Sanbon Kumite, Ippon Kumite, 8 Kihon Kumite, and lastly Gushan Jitsu. The progression started with basics building a foundation for everything to flow. It all flows together logically.
Have you ever done a sequence of techniques in a kata and wondered: what is the Benkai for this? At this camp and setting it was very easy to ask and review an explanation for those Benkai questions.
Feeling stances, feel positions of techniques, as opposed to looking to correct the technique and stances; a way of being more aware of your body.
After training a kata for some time I am still drawn to the fact that katas are multi-layered. Training with someone like Shihan Don can bring those layers of information out; giving a deeper appreciation of the kata.
I would like to thank all the shihans and sensei for the time and help. Special thanks to Shihan Don for his training. Also two thumbs up for Shihan Larry and his Armstrong Dojo for running another first class camp.
Armstrong Black Belt Camp 2016
The annual black belt camp that is held in Armstrong BC always serves as a fantastic font of knowledge, taught this year by Shihan Don Corrigal. From the first training season on the Friday night to the last one on Sunday morning, the amount of information that can be gleaned from the camp will keep your pens writing days after the camp has ended. This particular camp is a personal favourite of mine as it is a much smaller group size than that of the other Canadian seasonal camps. This focus on a smaller group allows for a much more individualized and personal training experience. Little mistakes that might be missed in a large group are seen and corrected by the instructors of the camp. For me, this year was a significant year to attend this camp as shortly after the conclusion of the final class I was graded for the technical portion of my Shodan testing. Having gone through the four main training sessions of the camp beforehand, while certainly tiring, made me feel even more prepared for the testing as some of my bad habits were pointed out and fixed throughout the weekend.
A new aspect which was introduced to the camp this year was an officiating clinic in place of one of the classes. In order to make up the lost time, each of the regular classes was extended by thirty minutes, which meant that while the amount of training was the same everyone at the camp was given the opportunity to take a refresher course, or even for some, experience officiating for the first time. This segment of the camp ran very smoothly and it was great to have the opportunity to get more practice in this section of Kyokushin. I am sure everyone came away from this clinic having learned something new, whether it be proper pronunciation and sequencing of events when leaving or entering the ring, the correct way to bow (as taught by Shihan Don and reinforced by Shihan Tats), or any number of tidbits of knowledge whether they be small or large.
The main focal points of this camp was learning to perfect our basic techniques/stances, and how to structure a students learning in such a way that there is a clear progression from Kihon to Kumite fighting. Throughout the course of the camp it was this progression that we followed. My main goal during these training sessions was to keep my mind engaged throughout and not to “train without thinking”. It can sometimes be too easy to train mindlessly and let muscle memory do the work for you. But when the ordering of something as simple as whether you block or punch first in an Ido Gaiko sequence is changed, muscle memory is no longer enough. It is interesting that unless your brain is fully engaged in training, such a subtle shift can cause you to lose focus. Over the course of the camp Shihan Don mentioned a great technique to calm and focus your mind during training, which is Enshin breathing. After a few rounds of this breathing it becomes much easier to focus and it was useful to me as it kept me focused on the training at hand and not worrying about the technical portion of my Shodan test at the end of the weekend.
When we made it to the kata portion of the training camp there was a small competition judged by the rest of the camp as to who had the best Seienchin Kata. The two finalists where Shihan Terry and Shihan Tats. And while Shihan Tats was the winner, watching them both do the kata was inspiring as it serves as a marker to show that there is always something that could be improved upon in my kata. It gives me something to aspire for, that when I have been training for as long as they have I hope to reach the level of Kata that I witnessed at the training camp.
The last class on Saturday and a portion of the class on Monday was spent on the Kihon Kumites. These eight forms which have been reintroduced into Canadian Kyokushin are actually from decades ago and have now come back as a part of the grading syllabus. I was thankful for the amount of time that was spent in demonstrating and explaining these Kumites, especially the latter half. As it is difficult in the larger camps to find time to go through all eight in detail and make sure that everyone understands them. The Kihon Kumites are very formal, yet very practical. They teach students to use basic techniques in set forms against attackers, which makes the transition into free-flow fighting easier. The point was made that at the end of every sequence the defender uses Zanshin to make sure that the attacker is down for good, and if not give them an opportunity to react in time. This teaches the ability of a fighter never to lose focus on your opponent even when you think that they have been defeated. The unexpected can always happen.
One of the best things about this camp is the opportunity we are given to interact with the senior belts from all of the different dojos that attend. This networking gives a real sense of community and makes for a weekend of training that is excellent not only mentally and physically, but also socially as well. Shihan Larry and Sempai Kathy put on a wonderful feast every year at their house on the Saturday evening which never fails to be a great time; meeting new people or simply chatting with old friends.
Overall this camp is a great learning opportunity for anyone who is looking for a challenge on both a mental and physical level. I would encourage any karateka to attend this camp if they have the opportunity to do so. As the reward is a plethora of knowledge which can be immediately applied into your own training. The small, hard-training, and friendly atmosphere at this camp makes for an excellent weekend of Kyokushin training.
BLACK BELT CAMP – ARMSTRONG – JUNE 2016
ONE STUDENT’S PERSPECTIVE
For several years I have been endeavoring to get to this camp in the Okanagan as it has always looked intriguing to me. The idea of just black and brown belts focussed on learning together in an intimate environment for a whole weekend appealed to my thirst for Kyokushin knowledge and understanding. Injuries and employment constraints had kept me away before, but not this year. This year Sempai EJ and I made the trek from Gabriola Island, across Georgia Strait and over the Coquihalla to be welcomed by all the folks from the Armstrong Dojo but particularly by Shihan Larry and Sempai Kathy who welcomed us into their home for the duration of the weekend. Their hospitality was extremely appreciated by us camp neophytes and helped us get the lay of the land so to speak. As an added bonus Shihan Don and Sensei Dean were also staying there and being able to listen to both Shihan’s and Sensei’s stories about the origin and long history of our organization was extraordinarily fascinating along with their combined knowledge about Kyokushin philosophy and technique.
Arriving at the dojo for Friday night training was enlightening and refreshing. Several senior students were waiting outside for the Shihans to arrive and help carry things in. The club had a special Kyokushin parking sign for Shihan Larry and the overall energy at the dojo was of respect, dedication, humility, camaraderie and passion. Shihan Tats was also at the dojo for that first training and Shihan Don explained how the weekend would flow with the progression from kihon to kata and beyond. The warm up was designed and delivered with current sports science research in mind and included elements of groundwork to help us feel more at ease with that environment which was good because over the course of the weekend we spent a fair amount of time down there. With a serious sweat flowing we moved into basics and were treated to more refinements as we moved through the techniques and stances that underpin everything we do from a physical perspective.
Following that evening class, back at Shihan Larry’s and Sempai Kathy’s place, we were treated with those Kyokushin stories and philosophies from the Shihans and Sensei which had staying up a little later than we are used to on our little island. Sempai Kathy pulled out an amazing assortment of snacks which were greatly appreciated by all. Next morning we were back at the dojo for 8 am. Shihan Terry was also at the dojo for this session which meant we had 3 of the most recently promoted Shihans there supporting Shihan Don. Along with Sensei Dean it was quite an inspiring front line. The next three sessions (Saturday morning, Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning) continued through the progression Shihan Don laid out the night before. Some of the highlights for me included doing some more advanced sanbon kumite that I had not practiced before, going through all eight kihon kumites, the kata “competition” that saw Shihan Tats and Shihan Terry as the finalists, and most of all pairing with some people I had never worked with before. As always Shihan Don brought us new things to incorporate in our training and it’s always a good challenge to do something for the first time and try and employ all the basic principles of Kyokushin in a new context.
Beyond the training sessions there was also an official’s clinic with some folks going through the process for the first time. While not my first time I always learn new things at the clinics and thoroughly appreciated being there. After training on Saturday there was a social event back at Shihan Larry’s and Sempai Kathy’s place. After some solid training it was wonderful to be able to spend time chatting with many folks, some relatively new to karate and others who have been around for several decades. Everyone I spoke with had really interesting stories and a passion for Kyokushin that is always inspiring. It is great to hear how others got into training and why they keep going.
Spending many travelling hours to and from the camp gives one time to reflect on one’s own training. Where and how it started. Highs and lows of the journey. Where we are now and what are our goals for the future. Personally my journey is like many others in some ways with similar elements along the way. In other ways it is very different as each of us has to overcome our own challenges beyond the scope of the testing process. It is easy enough to dwell on the challenges that have been set before us but I prefer to focus on the ways I have got past those challenges and what enables me to persevere when so often I’m tempted to give up or take a break. I think partly it is an innate curiosity. Always wanting to know more about everything from breathing to bunkai, kihon to kata and psychology to philosophy. There is just so much depth to Kyokushin Karate and I just want to know more. It is also about being challenged and not wanting to back away from them. I guess what it all comes down to is Osu no seichen – The spirt of perseverance.
Now I have to admit that I have taken that a bit far sometimes and have ended up incapacitated several times as a result. So as I get older and presumably wiser I have to pay attention to when perseverance is helping me grow and when it is causing me harm. It’s a tough one to learn for sure especially for those of us who started Kyokushin when it was a bit more about being a tough guy than anything else. This is one of the reasons I appreciate this organisation so much. The senior grades have come to understand the balance needed to support their kohai to become fully rounded karateka. No longer is it just about being the last one standing so to speak. It’s about helping people face their own challenges and to push themselves further than they ever thought they could and come out of it fit, healthy and happy.
Thank you again to all the Shihans and Sensei for an inspiring weekend. We will be there again next year for sure.