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Summer Camp St Malo 2010

Scroll down for a Journal of the weekend written by Sam Leary

Sion Williams & I attended the Shukokai Summer Camp last weekend. It was the first time we had tried a course of this length & it was made all the more exciting with the prospect of training on the beach in Northern France. We left with all sorts of stories from Sensei Andy & Sensei Dave about killer warm ups, combinations in chest deep water & the advice to train with as many different people as possible. I must admit I was a bit nervous; Sion of course was not in the least bit intimidated by anything apart from the flying! It was only his second time in a plane.

We had a very smooth flight, although Sion did not like the way the wings on the plane flexed when it was in the air! Sensei Denis had been very helpful in getting us out there & any worries we had evaporated in the scorching sunshine as along with Sensei Rolo from Huddersfield we were collected by local Sensei Fabrice. After a tour of the very beautiful town we were dropped off at the campsite, Sensei Fabrice was amazing, he made sure all was well at the campsite as my French is not great & Sion’s worse!

We decided there was not enough time for a swim in the pool as it was a couple of miles back to the beach. A stroll brought us to the supermarket & we were thoroughly enjoying a very French lunch of crusty bread & cheese, when I realized I had not set my watch for French time, we had 15 mins to get to the beach & it was 1 1/2 miles away!

So there we were, panting a bit but on this fantastic, public beach, about 50-60 of us from all over the UK, France, Germany & few other places as well. There was a good spread of clubs & grades & we were all very keen to get started. Sensei Ohshita took the first warm up & everything we had been warned about came true! I am not sure our legs have recovered from the horse stance exercises! We also learned very quickly to count loudly in Japanese or do press-ups, we did shout but not enough, so lots of press ups! But we loved every minute of it, (well maybe not the horse stance bit), Sensei was so energetic & enthusiastic about everything, training on the beach with curious members of the public was a new experience but Sensei would not let it put us off & encouraged us to greater & louder efforts.

We went through Chatanyara Kosokun, which took us 2 days to be able to say let alone do. The 2-3 hour session flew by; we did not want it to end. After our long walk back to the campsite, via a awesome pizza parlour, Sion & I spent what was left that of that evening trying to remember the new Kata, great to have been with Sion who has that fantastic but really annoying ability to pick up Katas very quickly.

Next morning we got a taxi to save our legs and down at the beach for 9.30am, beautiful blue skies, sand and sea, just amazing, what a Dojo. After lots of suntan cream application and Sensei Ohshita greeting the whole of Northern France to his morning wake-up yell, we headed onto the beach. There were more people training today and a good number of juniors, which was great to see. The excitement and enthusiasm from everyone was infectious. Sensei Kamohara was taking the morning session which was totally amazing, from the warm up to the end. A lot of effort went into explaining what our style is all about and this was all backed up with brilliant demonstrations and practical.

Sensei Kamohara was truly inspirational to watch, listen to and learn from. His movements and technique was so fluid, fast and with the appearance of effortlessness that you associate with true masters of their art.

Right from the outset we were jumping, lunging and in my case getting thrown around on the sand, but it was fantastic, I did not partner the same person all day. What was particularly great was how all the higher Dan grades mixed with everyone so we got loads of input all the time and it did not matter if they were English, French, German or Japanese knowledge was being given & accepted freely. We went through another fantastic Kata called Annan, Sensei Kamohara taught this in a very fluid and fast manner (but we would not expected anything less), he put in loads of bunkai, the highlight of which being were he picked up Fabrice who was a lot taller and at a guess heavier, held him totally horizontal above his head then threw him onto the sand! Ouch, you really would not have got up from that one. Incredible to watch, but I admit I did pass on trying that one.

Sunbathing and swimming in the pool followed lunch on the beach.

Sensei Ohshita took us for the afternoon session, a bit cooler but not by much, we were learning however & managed to shout loud enough, only one set of press-ups, phew! We went back to the kata from yesterday & split into 4 groups, random nationality, age and grade. After more practice there was to be a showdown. We were well chuffed with Sensei Kamohara awarding us second place but special mention must go to Sensei Rolo’s patience with our team and also the inspirational performance from an 8 year old orange belt who only learnt the Kate an hour ago but performed it magnificently! Just shows the level of the teaching and the commitment everyone was putting in.

Next it all got a bit wet!

We were all in our best Gi’s, many of us with silk belts; forward we went with basic punching & blocking into the surf. Luckily it was very warm but the incoming tide and the waves had us all soaked in seconds, it was just fantastic fun, one of many highlights of the weekend! After basics it was sparring, I got a complete soaking when thrown under the waves by a 3 Dan, I tried to duplicate the move on Sion but we both just ended up going under a wave, I obviously need to practice my water techniques. A brilliant way to finish what had been the most amazing day of training.

After a very sociable meal out on Saturday night, it was back to the beach on Sunday for Sensei Kamohara to deliver a masterclass in sparring, the focus being on how you move, I think we were all amazed again by how subtle, yet stunningly effective his karate is, it was certainly drawing lots of looks and photos from the general public who were passing by.

The demonstrations were all very clear and fast but he seemed to do everything so effortlessly. Again the continual partner changing was great, you were practising on a different height, weight, age, grade and nationality, it was just fantastic.

Unfortunately Sion and I had to leave early to catch our return flight. Something I shall remember for a long time was looking back over my shoulder and seeing 60+ people all in Gi’s lined up on the beach, facing the sea stepping out into yoi to begin the beautiful kata we had learnt. I desperately wanted to be there and not leaving to come home!

So that was it, a totally inspirational weekend, the level of teaching was world class and the atmosphere surrounding the event was amazing, its really hard to put it into words. I think the thing that comes across most strongly is the whole feel for what we do, about putting your heart, soul and spirit into your karate, trying moves, katas and not being afraid of getting it wrong but giving it a go. I would thoroughly recommend in the strongest possible way for you to get on the next one, its priceless.

As for any advice; if you take 3 Gi’s you don’t have to wear a wet one on Sunday!

Sam Leary, 1st Dan

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