Thursday, 11 August 2011

JKS Dan Grading's - My personal experience

I thought I would write about my experience of grading within the JKS organisation. I have in the past heard derogatory remarks from people about the standard of Karate-ka and the grading system of the JKS. Most of the time these individuals actually have no facts about or experience of JKS Karate. It has been claimed that the JKS just hand out grades and are only bothered about taking the money.... this is totally untrue!

Many people I know in the JKS have had to work so hard to achieve their Dan grades. I only have to look to my Sensei Alan Campbell (JKS England Chief Instructor & JKS GB & Ireland Chairman) who passed his Roku Dan (6th Dan) Grading at the JKS Hombu Dojo in Japan , December 2009. Going into the 'lions den' to physically and mentally challenge himself - no mean feat in the 'home' of Karate. This is something for Alan Sensei, his club students and his organisation to take pride in!

Both of my Nidan (2nd Dan) and Sandan (3rd Dan) gradings have been accredited to the JKS and I take great pride in both of these passes! For our organisation to be led by great instructors such as the late Asai Shihan, and now the future of the JKS with Kagawa, Yamaguchi, Kanayama Sensei's and many others that deserve mentioning it's safe to say we are in very good hands! (I say 'our organisation' as the majority of people reading this will be JKS members). Within the JKS GB and Ireland we are also led by 2 excellent Sensei and Karate-ka in our Technical Director Scott Langley (JKS 5th Dan) & our Chairman Alan Campbell (JKS 6th Dan). They in turn are supported by a great bunch of 'senior' Instructors to make our organisation strong and friendly. I believe in what we are taught by our Sensei's in the JKS GB & Ireland and it is made clear we try to practice Karate-do in the right spirit not only to conform to the JKS grading syllabus  but to develop our Karate to make it personal to us. It's obvious I am fiercely proud of my Karate lineage.... Seibukan Karate Club, JKS England, JKS GB and Ireland then of course our links to JKS Japan.

Me with Sensei's Scott & Alan on the left and with Shihan Kagawa after my Sandan grading!

No JKS Dan grading is easily passed... this I can promise you! So for a short while I will talk about my experiences and in particular my Nidan grading...

I think it was in September/October 2005 that I attempted to go for my Nidan in Loughborough with Yamaguchi & Kanayama Sensei's. I passed everything apart from my Kihon. Kata - tick! Kumite - tick! Kihon - retry in 3 months! I was absolutely gutted! I was failed on the yori-ashi movement in the Kihon combinations... this made me realise how tough JKS gradings are. How much the Japanese Sensei's want to push you past your limits... For me I believed this was a test of character and spirit! To fail on such a small part of the overall grading was upsetting.... but I think this was Yamaguchi and Kanayama Sensei's way of testing whether or not I'd  go away train even harder and come back for more! If I'd have given up I wouldn't have been worth the grade anyway.... So the month's passed and I was told I would be grading in Nottingham, March 2006 with Inada Sensei (Senior JKS Japan Hombu Dojo Instructor and former All Japan Kumite Champion).

Inada Sensei refereeing my Cadet Kumite Bronze medal match at the JKS GB International Open, Crawley, 2004

2006 JKS Nidan Grading and Course with Inada, Alan & Scott Sensei's

This course was very special to me as Inada Sensei seemed to have already of known that I was going for my Nidan grading on his course. So his lessons were based on the Nidan Kihon syllabus and seemed to always focus his attention towards me... not to the exclusion of others.... but he kind of knew when he needed to correct my technique, continually pushing me and working me harder!

Here are a few key points from the weekend's course content......
The main focus during the Kihon training with Inada Sensei was contraction and expansion (open/close).
Some of the basics (from zenkutsu-dachi) included;

  • Gyaku-zuki, back, oi-zuki, gedan berai (key point for this was to keep the striking hand back until the last moment on the oi-zuki making sure the foot/hand finish together).
  • Mae-geri, back, step forward mae-geri, gedan berai (hips close, open, close open...).
The grading took place on the Saturday after the course - I was determined not to fail! First up was the Kata section. I'd already passed both Kata and Kumite previously but I was told that I'd be doing the whole grading again just before I took it! I chose Nijushiho as my tokui Kata - which I felt was quite strong. I was then asked to perform Junro Shodan. Great! I didn't know it 100% at that time! Scott Sensei translated this to Inada Sensei... and they were talking for a few minutes (it seemed like an eternity!) then Inada Sensei just said ok.... I could sense a bit of disappointment! I then exclaimed "but I know Junro Yondan!!" Inada Sensei looked surprised... how could I know this but not the first one?? Nevertheless I was asked to perform Junro Yondan and I did so without any mistakes to my relief! Phew! Next up..... Kumite! I thought "YES!!! Let's have it! Not letting anyone stop me from achieving my pass!" I ended up fighting two seniors from my club (James Sempai and Alexander Dolton, our clubs first Sandan who unfortunately doesn't train any more). I was so pumped up for it that I more than stood my ground and tried to dominate the whole way through. YAME! was called and that was that! I was pretty pleased with my performance so far... then came the Kihon! Like always, I tried my best to encorporate what had been taught on the course. I awaited my results after...
  • Kumite - PASS!
  • Kata - PASS!
  • Kihon - retake on Sunday!!! I was gutted! I was told to work on tobi-kondi (step and slide) and yori-ashi (sliding movement in)!
So the course on Sunday with Inada Sensei was based on the Nidan syllabus again! Here are some more lesson notes from the course:
  • Tobi-kondi & yori-ashi - slide, weight on front leg, deep impact, body forward and technique right in.... *gaining DISTANCE!
  • Mawashi-geri -lead with the knee, go for distance (back foot sliding is ok!) and start kick 'wide' going round and down!!!
  • Kizami-zuki, yori ashi, sanbon-zuki - keep going forward, deep stances, complete all punches (no short techniques!) and pull hikite hand in line (not into the body!)
Alan Sensei then taught a lesson. Key points were:
  • Kiba-dachi - correct angles, weight ditribution and inner thighs squeeze.
  • In kiba-dachi using hip vibrations, Exercise 1 - moving; forward, right, back, left, forward twist forwards then Exercise 2 - moving forward, left, back, right, forward, twist backwards.
  • Pivoting exercise (heel to go backwards or ball of foot to go forwards.)
  • Kata Bunkai for Heian Shodan and Nidan using attacks or holds.
Then Scott Sensei taught Tekki Shodan, Nidan and Sandan - following on from Alan Sensei's lesson about how important Kiba-dachi is, as well as about timing, control and explosive movements.

The final lesson was taught by Inada Sensei... here are the last few notes I had jotted down:
  • Kumite partner work - 1 person attacks, 1 person counter-attacks "counter attacker should have the same thinking of the attacker > attack before they attack you!!"
  • According to Inada Sensei there are 3 types of punches/kicks - long, short (you need to vary the distance) or block counter/attack/same time (aiuchi).....

More Nidan Basics....

  • Back age-uke
  • Forward mawashi-geri (distance right in!!!)
  • keep going forward same side uraken with no snap back
  • with momentum still going forward, step through oi-zuki
  • KEY POINT >> flow techniques & deep impact!
  • Forward mawashi-geri
  • opposite leg forward ashi-berai (foot curved to hook & knee to chest and across body)
  • uraken, gyaku-zuki.
I must admit I felt the whole weekend was physically and mentally draining for me... trying my best to take in all the key lesson points and trying my best to pass my grading! At the end of the lesson on the Sunday I had to do the Kihon section of my grading in front of the whole course! I found the an extra store of adrenaline from somewhere and blasted out each combination I was told to do as best as I could! I was that concentrated it felt like I had tunnel vision, no one else was there to me, just me and Inada Sensei, trying my best to achieve the correct performance of my technique as I was taught just hours previously... I was was spent! Nothing left in the tank.... then I heard "Craig Williams.... Nidan.... PASS!!!" I was overjoyed! Part of me was thinking finally! But I knew that this grade meant everything to me... I had to work damn hard for it, not only in the preparation in the months leading upto it but in the grading too! Many of the senior Dan grades  on the course, which included the Captain Simon Bligh (mentioned in previous blogs), congratulated me and even commented that what they saw was the hardest Nidan grading they've seen....... and that means a lot when you look at the grade and experience some of the senior grades in the JKS GB & Ireland have got!

The JKS as an organisation is open and very friendly. Courses that are put on by the JKS are open to everyone, all organisations. For us to develop as Karate-ka it is important to broaden our horizon's and gain instruction from top Instructor's... you are encouraged to go out and train with many instructors and gain experience. As long as you stay true to the JKS with regards to your grading's and membership etc. I hope this blog has given you some useful information with regards to the JKS and my personal experiences. Feel free to discuss this topic on my blog! For anyone interested in joining JKS England please contact Simon Bligh Sensei on +44-(0)797-382-9970 and here is a link to the webiste for relevant information on joining JKS England;


Sunday, 7 August 2011

My favourite Asai Shihan Kata

I know I've not posted for a while so I thought I'd better sort it out! So my returning blog will be based on the question "What is my favourite Asai Kata and why?" This was asked by Simon Bligh Sensei otherwise known to everyone at Seibukan Karate Club as the 'Captain!'

Since becoming part of the JKS I have become accustomed to being taught to think 'outside the box' and develop my Karate to become personal and effective to me. Over the years we (I say we as in Alan Campbell Sensei's club) have practiced many of Asai Shihan's Kata's. My first memories of seeing and experiencing these 'different' Kata's were at the JKS GB's first ever International Seminar and Championships in Crawley, in 2004. Seeing Asai Shihan and the, at the time, up and coming young Makita Sensei teaching these Kata's - designed to be used as training tools to compliment the Shotokan Kata we already have.

Here's a link to a video of Makita Sensei teaching Junro Shodan and Nidan on the course I mentioned previously:

Also, Makita Sensei demonstrates Kakuyoku Nidan on the same course (you can see a very young me in the background!) in the following link:

Me practicing Unsu in Okinawa

It's difficult to decide which Kata is my favourite as there are so many Asai Kata to choose from. It's like asking what is you're Tokui Kata at different stages in you're competitive career. You like to choose the most 'eye-catching' Kata that you hope would impress the judges. BUT it must encompass good solid Kihon techniques! It should definitely not any involve any theatric or non existant movements! At the moment most people know my Tokui Kata is Unsu, which I performed at successfully in May 2011 to win the JKS Ireland Men's Individual Kata. The reason I like Unsu is for the pace of the Kata, you have the slow, controlled parts and the parts that can show off your athleticism (the four tate shuto gyaku zuki's) and obviously the jump is a big 'eye-catcher!'

JKS Ireland Open 2010 - Me performing Unsu

So if I had to choose one Asai Kata in particular I would have to pick Junro Yondan. Many people that have recently joined JKS England have told me how difficult a Kata this is for them to grasp. For me it was the first Kata I remembered..... I say remembered because I was taught all 5 by Alan Sensei (after we were shown them on courses with various instructors like Kagawa, Yamaguchi, Kanayama, Koike, Inada, Scott Sensei's) but Junro Yondan was the first one to stick in my head! I remember going for my Nidan grading in Nottingham in 2006 with Inada Sensei and when it came to Kata I did Nijushiho as my Tokui, then Bassai Dai was selected for me. I was then asked to do Junro Shodan by Inada Sensei... I didn't know it 100%! Inada Sensei then looked to Scott Sensei..... then I exclaimed "But I know Junro Yondan!!!" Inada Sensei looked confused..... with translation he replied how can you know this without knowing the first one??" But I duly performed Junro Yondan and ended up passing my grading to great relief!

So, it's a Junro Yondan is a favourite as it's a Kata that has brought personal success with regards to my Nidan grading. For some reason I really like techniques and movements that require spinning and pivoting so I feel really at ease with this Kata. Below is another link, of Scott Langley Sensei performing Junro Yondan:

I feel that some of the key themes to this Kata are spinning/pivoting and re-use of the same hand. When spinning forward (leading with the chest/open side) it is best to spin on the ball/middle of your foot but when you spin backwards (leading with your back/closed side) it is more effective to spin on the heel of the foot. To me, Junro Yondan feels like a realistic fighting Kata because you aren't just blocking and countering.... There could be a number of blocks before you're able to counter - just like in a real fighting scenario! Also the Kata shows us that we can block pro actively going forward i.e. the first two moves. The Kata also introduces us to Neko Ashi Dachi again, as well as open hand techniques.

The Junro Kata's are like the Heian Kata's - the basis to support development of good technique and understanding of body mechanics. I believe the key to Asai-Ryu Kata is smooth transitions, relaxation and fluidity - so bare this in mind when learning and refining these Kata's.

Keep training hard and enjoy what you do!


Monday, 20 June 2011

A Photographer's Journal: Preview

A Photographer's Journal: Preview: "Just a quick preview of of the photos from tonights course with Koike Sensei. More to come tomorrow."

Saturday, 18 June 2011


a guest post by Douglas Hunter Sensei, 3rd Dan, JKS England

Being in good shape to train was once a by-product of karate training.  One got fit by training, however things are changing somewhat, especially for those who are interested in performing in competition but also those who are interested in getting the most out of their training.  If the body is physically healthy then more effort and vigour can be dedicated to the actual training.

Training randomly and in an ad hoc manner can be more counter productive.  Especially if one is needing to “peak” for a championships of grading then there needs to be some form of plan so as to avoid overtraining and injury and optimise performance.  The training needs to be periodised.

What is periodisation?
Although this is at times complicated and “new fangled” is not a new concept or idea.  Periodisation has been used in some form since the earliest athletes competed against each other, but it was systematically analysed and classified around the early to mid sixties.

A definition of periodisation can be planned variation in the training programme
These variations should include changes in: “Specificity, intensity and volume”
(Wathen, Baechle & Earle 2000).  A key point here is these changes are not random but planned in order to attain certain outcomes.

 The concept was proposed by Matveyev in the early 60’s.  He analysed the training of a number of athletes and arranged the above variables (intensity and volume) into cycles.  Hans Selye’s General Adaptation Syndrome lead to the refinement of the periodisation principle, this is illustrated below.

 Selye’s GAS was adapted to physical training by Garhammer (1979).  The GAS is broken down into the following sections

This is the initial phase.  It could last several days or even weeks depending upon the level of training of the individual and the intensity of the initial dose or shock.  When we train our clients we need to assess their experience and training status to make sure the initial dose is appropriate.  To begin with there is an initial drop in performance; the trainee is exposed to the training stimulus for the first time.

This is when the body adapts to the training.  There has been some time to get over the initial shock and the trainee makes some changes in performance levels.  There are some adaptations made.  Here is also known as super compensation.  Sometimes there is a learned response before a physiological, in other words the clients get better at doing the exercises before they get stronger.

If the stressors are kept for an extended period of time then an exhaustion phase occurs.  If this is allowed to continue the symptoms of the alarm phase reappear, however this is when we do not want them to appear.  Any form of excessive training can lead to monotony and overtraining.  The excessiveness can be both in terms of too much intensity and volume.  There can be problems both psychologically and physiologically.

So if we keep doing the same type of physical training without any planned variation we will run the risk of injury, boredom, or a general lack of effective results.  So having identified why we need a periodised training plan , let’s look at some of the components of one.


In general it is the smallest part of the periodised programme.  The origin of the word comes from Latin & Greek (“Mikros” = small “Cyclus” = a sequence).
One could call a microcycle a weekly training schedule or a weekly breakdown in the overall programme.  This is essentially a short term goal or plan.  Work on developing smoother knee lift for mawashi geri..

This is an approximate monthly training cycle or a group of microcycles that lead into a collective goal.  The microcycles must coherently flow into this mid term goal.  This is a specific phase of the training programme.  There could be a month spent working on cardiovascular fitness and being able to apply mawashi geri in a semi structured environment, i.e. conditioned kumite.

This is the entire training plan, the long term plan of where the client wants to be. This can be about one year or it can be up to four years for Olympians.  The overall training which finishes at the event.  At this point we should be scoring ippons (dare I say it sanbons!?) with our mawashi geri! 

There are various ways to alter or break down the training plan.  There are a minimum of three to four phases of a periodised programme and they do not have to be named in a specific way but they must have specific focuses.  The duration of each phase of the programme is NOT fixed.  One has to decide based upon the training status, techniques, fitness levels etc of each individual as this influences all aspects of the training programme.

High volume & low intensity work.  This is building a foundation for the more challenging work that is to follow.  One could say that the general fitness foundations are being laid for more specific training.  Some highER intensity work is included here but not a lot.  The goals are to stimulate positive changes in the body & ready the body for more challenging work.  In essence PREPARE.  If we are going to condition ourselves then generic fitness and conditioning can be used, squats, bench presses etc.

There is a shift towards lower volume exercise as the intensity is increased – remember that these two aspects are inversely proportional.  Where the transition phase was looking at generalised fitness, here the exercise selection becomes more specific to the overall needs of the programme. 

At this stage more specific exercises ought to be used, plyometric exercises (jumping/throwing etc), Olympic lifting and kettle bell lifting.  These types of exercises utilse the posterior chain (back of body) muscles, that are more useful for performance as opposed to anterior muscles (front of body), that are more useful for aesthetics!

Kettle bell training – excellent for posterior chain and “performance” not “posing” muscles!

There are more reductions in volume in this phase as there are increases in intensity.  The emphasis upon technique is maintained throughout this phase and it is made relevant to the sports performer and the health related exerciser.  Here additional conditioning work should be carefully controlled.  Conditioning is maintained through dojo training and if possible if there are any “build up” events, i.e., inter-club comps before regional, regional events before national, etc.

This could be also called active rest as both intensity and volume are decreased.  Other recreational activities could be introduced.  Perhaps this could be seen as a transition phase or regeneration phase before the cycles are repeated again.  Some rest time!  Nurse some injuries!  Find some serenity in steady kata sessions?

  • Baechle T.R. & Earle R.W. (eds.) (2008)”Essentials of Strength and Conditioning” (3rd ed.) Human Kinetics Chapter 5 Ratamess N.A.
  • Dick F.W. (2002) “Sports Training Principles” A & C Black
  • Chu D A (1998) “Jumping into Plyometrics” Human Kinetics
  • Garhammer, J. & Gregor R. (1992) “Propulsion Forces as a function of intensity for weightlifting and vertical jumping” Journal of Applied Sport Science Research Vol 3 No. 6

A big thank you to Douglas Sensei for taking the time out to write this blog!

Sunday, 5 June 2011

New Dojo for Dermot O'Keeffe Sensei (JKS Ireland)

A big congratualtions to Dermot Sensei (Hokubu & JKS Ireland Squad Coach) on the opening of his brand new Dojo! Best of luck! Osu! Craig.

Shihan Norman Robinson 8th Dan

Notes from a course in 2009 with Shihan Norman Robinson (JKS SA, 8th Dan), in Nottingham, England

"Lean" Karate - stripping away unnecessary movement to make Karate fit/suit your own body type.


  • Old JKA style in a circle.
  • Used wall for some leg stretches/exercises.
  • To get fluid into joints and muscles at a temperature to be stretched and worked hard.
Hanme - hips 45 degrees, not all the way back.

Gedan Berai - finish block and land in stance at the same time.

  • Back leg push forward and slide in....
  • Front foot step forward and pull in.....
  • Back leg half step in and push forward to slide in....
  • Weight over toes on supporting leg when kicking for balance and stability - keeping face/body out of range.
Shihan Norman Robinson believes in Budo as a way of living, not religion. So he sees himself as a warrior/samurai.

He taught the lesson to focus on the lower body separately, upper body separately, then using the whole body.

  • Front stance, hips shomen, gyaku-zuki, on hikite kick mae-geri on the same spot.
  • Then gyaku-zuki, hikite and kick mae-geri same time stepping forward.
  • *pointer for me was to finish the technique before i do the 2nd combination.*
  • Important
  • When punching don't over rotate.
  • Everything direct to be first to the punch.
  • Punch 45 degrees focusing on hikite and keeping shoulders forward
  • Age-uke is more of a hooking punch for directness.
Exercise for uchi-uke
  • Arms wide, palms facing in, contract (hugging position), expand (start position), contract and expand out into uchi-uke - front stance.
  • *pointer for me - blocking elbow is a fist away from the hip to protect the body*
  • Exercise for soto-uke is opposite to above.
Partner work
  • Both left leg forward. One person quickly changes legs, attacks jodan gyaku-zuki and follows through with the back leg to attack with the top of your shin to theirs to take them down.
  • Choke hold. 
          - Right hand oi-zuki, parry with both hands to the outside.
          - Right hand keeps hold of the wrist.
          - Left arm and hand locks into the neck to control the take down.
As you can see by the expression on my face the choke hold is very effective!
  • Shin attacks.
     - Attacking inner and outer thigh with shin, natural movement, full momentum in and body
       weight forward.
  • Ashi-berai
     - Attack kizami-zuki.
     - Slide back and sweep with front leg (use hips and body rotation to take down).

*Pointer on kicking for me: jodan mawashi-geri - keep hips level!*

  • Movement/Body co-ordination
   - Used exercises for different sliding movements e.g. quick stance change, slide forward
  • Stances
  • Zenkutsu-dachi to half-way, back to zenkutsu-dachi - focus on balance, body control and weight over the knee.
  • When moving between stances you should have the ability to change the direction you go or the stance you go into (body control).
  • Kiba-dachi (co-ordination) Jumping left, right, forward, back on count (gedan berai left and right, nihon zuki forward and double hikite backwards).

  • Gyaku-zuki exercises
      - Stretch in (full range of movement - yori-ashi) and rebound backwards. Keeping form!   
        Make sure you contact!
      - Angles, side to side gyaku-zuki, soft movement, quick footwork (half-step in). In groups for 
        target and race against other teams.
  • Kumite
*Continuous movement is important!*

"Competition kumite is about speed, not strength..."

  • WKF/athletic style of movement where getting out of distance is just as important as getting into distance!
  • Everything (e.g. footwork/movement) should come through the knees.
I would highly recommend anyone to train with Shihan Norman Robinson should they get the chance to!


Lesson Notes from a Koike Sensei Children's Class in 2010

Having just written up my 'Hints and Tips for Teaching Children - Koike Sensei 5th Dan' blog I thought I would also type up and post notes I made on a course in Nottingham, June 2010, taught by Koike Sensei specifically aimed at children.

Children's class


The 'Belt Game' (this is one of the favourite games the kid's have when I teach!)
  • Children running in a circle.
  • Sensei is in the middle swinging the belt in a circular motion high/low, up/down, fast slow.

  1. Run to Sensei and Kiai.
  2. Knees high and Kiai.
  3. Heel touch bottom and Kiai
  4. Hands forward, foot touching hands.
  5. Hands to the side, foot touching hands.
  6. Bunny hops, soft landing, arms swing back and forward.
  7. 'Hop scotch' - feet together/open moving forward punching choku-zuki at the same time
  8. Lay on stomach - pulling body forward (e.g like breast stroke in swimming).
  9. Sitting on the floor,face backwards with legs up in the air straight and push yourself backwards.
Team Games

4 mattes out for the teams.

  • Run to edge of the matte and do 2 choku-zuki's, roly poly forward on the matte, stand up and do 2 more choku-zuki's. If the child is too scared to roly poly then they just do 10 choku-zuki's instead.
  • Run to edge of the matte and do 2 mae-geri's, roly poly forward on the matte, stand up and do 2 more mae-geri's. If the child is too scared to roly poly then they just do 10 mae-geri's instead.


  • Lay down - eyes closed - Heian Shodan in your mind.
  • Heian Shodan slow to count.
  • Heian Shodan focus on front stance - sit on the front leg of the stance (half the class do the Kata/half sit on front leg to make sure the stance is strong).
  • Heian Shodan focus on kime - push against block/punch (opposite direction) *RESISTANCE TRAINING.*
Working in pairs/groups = INTERACTION!


Hold hands to make a circle.

  • 10 punches.
  • Ask children how to make them stronger.
  • Tell them strength in your triceps/arms.
  • "Lets do push-ups!!!"
          - 10 normal (on knees).
          - 3 on finger tips
  • Then roll wrists and shake off

  • Sensei... "now I check punch" - hikite practice. Koike tries to catch punchers hand so hikite must be fast. *FUN*
  • Relaxed knees/ankles - slow mae-geri.
  • Bend knees and balance on balls of feet - mae-geri (practice balance!)
  • Kick 1 time mae-geri each leg...
  • Kick 2 times mae-geri each leg.... then 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 etc.
  • Hold hands in circle - 10 times mae-geri keeping knee up - "don't disturb balance."
At the end of the lesson ask.... "What did we learn?"

Hints and Tips for Teaching Children - Koike Sensei 5th Dan

In 2009 Koike Sensei came to Nottingham to teach an open course at Seibukan Karate Club. It was 2009 when I set up my own club and decided after the course I was going to ask Koike for advice on teaching children after seeing how successful he was in engaging them. The fact that wherever he teaches, children love him! So the following bullet points are key hints and tips when teaching children, taken from my conversation with Koike Sensei;

  • Use the same warm-up - not to confuse them.
  • Session intensity - start physically hard, then, as their energy deteriorates, decrease the amount of physical work to make it easier but more technical.
  • Talk gently.
  • Follow the energy = breaks lose energy.
  • Co-ordination - use exercises like, hands up swing legs and touch toes etc. Basic things to improve hand/foot eye co-ordination.
  • Slow count for slow moves = Fast count for fast moves.
  • Use gymnastic ideas.
  • Use equipment.
  • Explain warm-ups
              - difference between kiba-dachi and shiko-dachi.
              - different moves/use different muscles.
              - co-ordination - hands up/legs up etc.
  • When concentration goes = change the activity.
  • Collect children in groups - show off fast and ask "you want a go?" "yes."
  • SMILE!
  • Say "you can't do" then the children respond "yes we can!" - reverse psychology.
  • Use partner work but only with easy things.
  • Transferable learning.
          - the kids wait outside whilst Sensei make the dojo messy.
          - time limit: give them 1 minute to clean up - TEAMWORK!
            e.g 1 group sort out the shoes the other group sort out the clothes/bags etc.
  • Dojo= your room - a lesson for the kid's that if they do the above at home their parents won't punish them etc.
  • ADHD (Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) & other learning issues - PULL don't push.
  • Keep kid's comfortable - let them sit down if you are demonstrating.

Koike Sensei and I

Sensei Koike's sees his Karate-do as  'shin - gi - tai' (spirit - technique - body).

So with children I particularly want to emphasise on the spirit to keep them engaged to allow me to teach them how to use their body to perform techniques correctly....

Hope this advice from Koike Sensei is as valuable to you as it has been to me!


Friday, 3 June 2011

Karate & Children = FUN

Karate is taught universally around the world. Anyone can do it. Whether you're young, old, healthy, unfit, different levels of ability as well as disability. But here I am going to focus on CHILDREN. The younger children are, the more fearless they are in wanting to try new things. Children are eager to learn and willing to try - making mistakes doesn't bother you when your young.

I believe that as long as the Sensei/Coach/Teacher praises and makes the lesson fun - the child will always come back for more! So by good practice we are retaining our club members! Children are impressionable, so we must demonstrate not only correct technique but the right attitude. In other words lead by example. So as an instructor we must train alongside our students at times and 'just do.' Throwing ourselves into the lesson, doing everything, being positive, teach serious points yet make the lesson FUN! This way the child will try to please their Sensei by trying to do everything that's been asked on them in the lesson.

The club atmosphere is something that can affect a child's experience and be a factor in whether or not they enjoy Karate. The key is to make sure all the children get along and try to avoid them forming cliques as this can lead to exclusion within the peer groups. So, for example, when doing partner work in your lesson make sure you vary who partners who. This way everyone trains together and can build up a rapport too!

Ideas!!! I'm not gonna lie... I like to "borrow" teaching ideas from my Sensei, other Senior instructors and Kohai's when I'm at my club or teaching in my schools. It's like me training on courses with various instructors. I take the pieces that fit me from each instructor and try to use it to influence and improve my Karate technique and thought process. Teaching is no different - try things out you have seen and discard what doesn't work. You need to be adaptable when you coach/teach so why not use the ideas you have gained?! Seems like a waste not too... you'll soon find out the few ways of teaching that grabs the attention and makes your students enthusiastic. Keep these but don't be afraid to try new things - you can always go back to the safe option of what you know is best to enthuse the children. LESSON DELIVERY is just as important as LESSON CONTENT! 

How you speak to children is very important e.g. your tone of voice. You need to apply certain ways of speaking when you want certain results. For example, a firm voice when you're "telling-off" - if you shout and talk down to them you will only lose your student's motivation and positivity. In my club I like to threaten my children... SHOCK! GASP! No, I joke, I don't really threaten them! I like to make light of their behaviour/lack of effort etc. with a cheeky comment like "if you don't do this I will tap you on the head" or "I'll ashi-berai to the floor" all whilst smiling and laughing with them. They know for sure that I wouldn't do this but motivates them.... so I guess what I'm trying to say is that you have to find a way of talking to children to get a positive result from them. Find out what key words, or ways or speaking has a positive impact on them. So in the way I described they get to have a laugh and joke with me, therefore, whilst they know they need to improve, they have fun! Also, demonstrations & repetitions must keep the attention of the students. Find different ways of showing the technique and ways of hiding the fact that they may be doing lots of repetition of certain techniques by turning basics into games for example.

This is a topic the interests and intrigues me a lot so expect further blogs related to this. Also, in the near future I will upload an interview I did in 2009 with Yutaka Koike Sensei (JKS 5th Dan). This interview was before I set up my club and covers Koike Sensei's philosophy on teaching children. If people didn't know, Koike Sensei is one of the best modern day instructors in the world and is a pleasure to train with. He makes Karate look easy! Take a look at for details on a course with Koike Sensei on the 19th June at the Haxby and Selby Shotokan Karate Clubs.


Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Junro Shodan: What's the Point?

After a lot of pushing from James Martin (JKS, 3rd Dan) Sempai (a far more experienced blogger as we all already know!) I have finally decided to move out of the 'comfort zone' and write my views on the JKS, Kata, Kumite, Kihon, in fact anything Karate-related! So this is my first ever blog.... on the Junro Kata's, focusing on Junro Shodan in particular. Hope you all enjoy reading! Osu!

Since joining the JKS in 2003 with Alan Campbell Sensei (6th Dan JKS) I have been exposed to many Asai-Ryu Kata. Unfortunately I only managed to train with Asai Shihan once. This occasion was when we had our first JKS GB & Ireland international seminar and championships in Crawley, England in 2004. This was taught by Shihan Tetsuhiko Asai, Sensei Masao Kagawa and the Senior JKS Hombu Dojo Instructors. It was at this course that an up-and-coming Kenshusei course instructor called Takuya Makita taught Junro Shodan, Junro Nidan and Kakusen Shodan (an Ashi-berai Kata). This was my first taste of Asai-Ryu Kata!

Asai Shihan practiced over 120 Kata's that he mastered and he added five more, Junro 1-5, in addition to the 26 Kata in the standard JKS syllabus. Many of the Asai-Ryu Kata aren't "shotokan-ised" and are used as a training aid to compliment Shotokan Kata. For example, the Junro Kata teach good body mechanics and introduces us to stances and techniques that we wouldn't normally come across until we reach the advanced Kata's. So, in other words, the Junro Kata's compliment our syllabus Kata.

Junro Shodan is one of five Kata's developed by Asai Shihan designed to bridge the gap between low/intermediate and advanced Kata in the Shotokan syllabus. Junro means "the next step" or to "level up." After studying Junro Shodan for the past 6/7 years (in fact Junro Nidan, Sandan, Yondan & Godan too) I have come to the conclusion that these Kata's cannot be performed without relaxation - false kime and too much tension is a big problem with people in Shotokan Karate but this isn't possible if you expect to perform smooth transitions throughout the Kata.

The Junro's definitley add something to your Karate especially as they all have key themes that can be used to focus on possible weaknesses in our Karate. The same goes for other Asai-Ryu Kata. He didn't design them for the sake of it. They are to improve deficiencies we have and to focus on particular techniques etc. Quickly I will mention other Asai-Ryu Kata's and there theme:

  • Rantai - mostly a kicking Kata
  • Kakusen Shodan - an ashi-berai kata (balance, strength and timing)
  • Joko Issei - a pivoting Kata focusing on how to use the hips to generate body movement.
The key theme for Junro Shodan is re-using the same hand. For example, the first 3 moves of gedan berai in kiba-dachi, jodan uchi-uke in shizentai followed by tetsui in zenkutsu-dachi are all  with the left hand. Then of course we have the spinning/turning component of the Kata, for example, in the next two moves we have spinning behind gedan berai, gyaku zuki in zenkutsu-dachi. Just like basic kata, whatever we do on the left side we do on the right side and repeat. Just like the Heian Kata's the shape of Junro Shodan is the same... in a capital 'I' shape. So in the first 10 moves of this Kata we have been introduced to the the re-usage of the same hand and 360 degree kaiten (spinning/turning) movement and gyaku kaiten (reverse spinning/turning). Also, we are introduced  to Kiba-dachi here - we don't see this stance until Heian Sandan!

We also use transition techniques to allow us to repeat what we did on our left side with our right side. So continuing with the Kata, we turn gedan berai to the front, recoil into neko ashi dachi same hand uchi-uke then return into front stance gyaku-zuki. Step forward gedan berai (the transitional move) to allow us to repeat the same thing on the right hand side then step forward gyaku-zuki to kiai! Again we are introduced to reusing the hand as well as neko ashi dachi - a stance we don't see until the advanced level Kata's (Hangetsu)! Towards the end of the Kata we use open hand techniques, which, again, we don't usually see until advanced level Kata's.

Junro Shodan is the 1st of a series of five Kata's and therefore is a taster of what's to come in the other 4 Junro's.

Although I'm far from an an expert on any of the Junro Kata's but I believe practicing Junro Shodan can help to develop contraction and expansion in the body to create relaxed power and therefore helps us to create the relaxed snapping feeling of our techniques. Having to rely on creating power reusing the same hand prevents us from tensing too much and becoming stiff. Basically if you're not relaxed you cannot reuse the same hand effectively. Personally, this Kata has helped me to become more relaxed in my upper body and shoulders. Having to co-ordinate hip and shoulder snap without a 'natural' pulling back hikite feeling has made me think more about my technique and feel 'looser.' Something I feel everyone needs to do - rather than just going through the Kata just making shapes. Also, it has brought to my attention balance issues in neko ashi dachi. Being able to move fast in and out of this stance has reaped reward in other Kata's for me. For those who know me, in particular my improvement in this stance has been shown in my performance of my competition Kata Unsu - controlling the slow transitions  forward in neko ashi dachi.

In conclusion of the points discussed I believe that you should concentrate on the main points of;
  • creating a relaxed shoulder snap when reusing the same hand
  • thinking about contraction and expansion when performing the turning and spinning techniques
I cannot stress enough that you need to be relaxed when performing this Kata, in fact all Asai-Ryu Kata, for it to be fluid and smooth with natural power and speed. Try focusing on the  key themes of all the Junro Kata's and you will see/feel an improvement in both your  Heian/Intermediate/Advanced Kata's and your Kihon. Asai Shihan used to say the Budo spirit is most important in Karate, that every time you do Kata you are in a fight! So, to finish up on, a quote from my Sensei...... "train hard.... fight easy!"


Craig Williams (JKS 3rd Dan)