Qualicum Beach Canada Gasshuku report and article

By Kevin Jamieson - Shubukan Dojo – IOGKF Canada

IOGKF Canada member, Kevin Jamieson, has taken the time to document his experiences, not only at the Qualicum Beach Gasshuku, but in general. This is a great read for anyone considering or who needs reinforcing about the benefits of Gasshuku training…

When I was asked to write an article about the Gasshuku in Qualicum Beach and how I combined it with a two week road trip I facetiously retorted, “Great, I’m 35 years old and Sensei is basically asking me to write an essay on ‘How I spent my summer vacation’.”  Luckily she laughed and I didn’t have to do any push ups.  All the same, I thought about it a bit and well, here goes…

After the end of a two hour karate class you’re tired, sweating, and maybe even aching and then Sensei announces, “There will be a Gasshuku coming up soon in (insert name of far-away place here)”.  If you’re like most people, the first things to cross your mind are, “That will be expensive to get there” or “I doubt I could work that into my schedule because of (insert reason here)”.  Well I used to think the same sorts of things until I tried a couple Gasshuku…

I have actually been to three Gasshuku, however, I don’t count the first one because it was at home.  Nakamura Sensei came to Calgary to lead the Gasshuku and grade some of the students from the Shubukan Dojo (Calgary).  I had the opportunity to meet several martial artists from other IOGKF schools who came out to this Gasshuku.  Unfortunately, because it was in Calgary, I didn’t get the additional Gasshuku benefits that come from the travel.

The second Gasshuku that I went to, I truly count as my first, because it was the first one for which I had to travel.  I went to the 2009 MCF in Burlington, Canada.  It was amazing.  We trained in seminars with many prominent Sensei’s, including Higaonna Sensei.  Not only was it a chance to meet new people and train with others, I actually had a good opportunity to get to know my own Sensei and classmates a lot better by travelling with them.

My third Gasshuku (my second on the road) was a Gasshuku in Qualicum Beach, BC.  Nakamura Sensei headed up this Gasshuku like my first one.  This time there were a lot of new faces and more chances to sit in a social setting with my own classmates, my Sensei, and other IOGKF Sensei and members.  This was a particularly interesting one from a travel standpoint as it was the first one, to which I brought my wife.  We actually camped at QualicumBeach throughout the Gasshuku.  It was the last stop on a two week road trip that took us from Calgary to Washington, south to California and finally ending on Vancouver Island.

 So I know what you’re thinking now, “That’s really great, Kevin, but how are these stories supposed to help me find ways to fit a Gasshuku into my life?”  Well, there are a number of dimensions really.  First and foremost you have to decide for yourself what do you really want out of karate.  Do you want to learn self defence?  Do you just want to get into better shape?  If so, then putting the effort into Gasshuku may not be for you.  On the other hand, if you look at martial arts as a key part of your life, even a way of life (bushido), then you really need to seriously consider Gasshuku training.

 By going away to a Gasshuku you are taking control over your life.  There will always be projects around the house.  There will always be extra work to do at your job.  The warrior’s way (bushido) is not to be lead around in life, it’s to act and take control, to live in the moment.  If you enjoy Karate and want to make your progress in Karate a priority, you don’t do it when you have time, you MAKE time.  Setting aside time and resources to go to a Gasshuku is a promise you are keeping with yourself.  You are taking control and saying Karate is important to me and I am making a commitment to getting better.

Another major benefit of Gasshuku training is the inspiration that you get from going to these events.  I used to train in Muay Thai kickboxing at the same time as Goju-Ryu Karate.  I was so inspired after the 2009 MCF that I came home and decided to concentrate my training in Karate.  It’s amazing to see some of the great masters that we have in our system perform a Kata, even as basic as Gekisai Dai Ichi. If you are not inspired then you should check for your own pulse.  This inspiration is just the “pick me up” that most people need to go back to the dojo and put the spring in their step.  Not to mention that while you’re at a Gasshuku, you get to learn from some of these talented masters and try new exercises.  That too can offer a shift in your training when you go back to the dojo.

qualicum beach

 Travelling with your classmates to a Gasshuku offers a great opportunity to get to know them outside the dojo. Think about it. You train with these people every class, but how well do you really know them? Your Karate class is like your immediate family.  The better you get along with your “family” the more fun it is to be at “home” (the dojo) and the more likely you will go and train.  Let’s face it, it also makes that training time more enjoyable!

  Did I mention that Gasshuku are a great way to burn calories!?!?  My Sensei and I have a saying, “A Gasshuku weekend is an ‘eat what you want and get away with it’ weekend”.  In Qualicum I spent 10 hours doing Karate training (and I even had to miss the final day).  At every meal break my stomach was screaming at me, “FEED ME!” and by the time I came home I had even lost weight!

 As I re-read this, it’s beginning to sound more like a lecture than an article.  Let me run down some of the events from my last Gasshuku in Qualicum Beach, BC and I’ll let you be the judge.

My wife and I showed up the night before the Gasshuku in Qualicum and set up camp.  We had a gorgeous site right on the beach at the First Nation’s camp ground.  My wife’s uncle joined us at the campground as he lives in Vancouver.  So we had a great time catching up around the campfire and watching the sunset that night.  While on my way to the Qualicum Beach Community Hall to register, I spotted my Sensei and his family in the car behind me.  We had some extra time, so we stopped at the Old Dutch Inn where many of the out-of-towners were staying.  We met up with some more familiar faces:  Nakamura Sensei, Rob and Sensei Adrienne.   From there, we all caught up talking about all of our adventures in getting to our training venue.   It was not long before we had to get to the Community Hall where the session was being held.

Once there, I was pleasantly surprised to see my other classmates.  Many of them took the same opportunity I did to combine family, road trip, and vacation with their training.  So we all did the usual things, a little warm up and stretch and introduced ourselves to a few new faces.  I was particularly inspired by a young student from our class, who, at six years old, taught us all a lesson by example.  He made it a point to walk around to every student in the Dojo and bow to them (Thank you, Jared!).  From there I stepped up my efforts to introduce myself to as many new faces as I could before we began class.  The training sessions were conducted with the level of professionalism, content, and (let’s face it) sweat that we all come to expect from IOGKF.  The sessions were hard, insightful, and at times, even entertaining.  I was very fortunate in these sessions that I had several chances to demonstrate with Nakamura Sensei when doing drills, Kakie and Bunkai. Having the techniques executed on you really helps you understand exactly how best to execute the technique yourself.

 At the end of the session, Sensei Rainer invited everyone down to the Shady Rest Restaurant and Bar on QualicumBeach.  The food there was excellent.  Unfortunately the only reason I know is because I actually had lunch there the day before.  But don’t shed a tear for me.   It was really rough, but I had to go back to my campsite on the beach where my wife had a roaring campfire going and there was a beautiful sunset starting to take shape (and a cooler of ice cold BEvERages).

 Cut to the next morning, I got up quickly and quietly.  I made my way to the Community Hall.  On the way there, I stopped at Lefty’s Cafe to grab some breakfast and a coffee.  While I was there, one of the servers recognized the IOGKF crest on my shirt.  We got talking and it turns out that she was a former student of the local dojo.  I explained that, in fact, I was ordering my breakfast to go because I was on my way to train.  So I hurried on to the black belt class and then later the Kyu belts showed up for the common session for all students.  I’m not going into detail about the sessions, because this article is long enough as it is. These sessions were jam packed with excellent tips, great reviews of the fundamentals and some detailed dissection of the essence of Karate.

After sweating it out all morning, we stopped down at the beach at a little canteen where I think everything on the menu was deep fried...but that’s OK...I was on Gasshuku dietary rules!!!  The food was really good, and it was nice to be out in the sunshine. I was kind of surprised as I had always heard that BC was quite rainy, especially in the Vancouver area.  But for 3 days we didn’t have a drop of rain.  The weather was truly gorgeous.  So after a little downtime we went back to train for the afternoon.

The afternoon session started a little slowly (purposefully I think).  Sensei wanted to make good and sure we were properly warmed up.  Once we got into full session, we went though Kata and more partner drills.  Once it was over, Sensei asked if some of us would stay behind so the seniors could check our Kata.  I was a little nervous on one hand, but on the other, it was a great opportunity to have a different perspective on the areas of which I need to work.  We were broken up into small groups where the reviewing Sensei’s were meticulous.  Another great session...

qualicum beach

Once training was over I rushed back to our campsite.  Unfortunately I was going to have to miss the final day of training as I was going to have to work on Monday and needed all day Sunday to drive back across BC.  So we broke camp, showered up and said good bye to my wife’s uncle.  Luckily they had the day while I was training to be able to catch up with each other.  It had been a few years since their last visit.

 So once we were packed, we headed for what turned out to be an amazing, endless, buffet style dinner at Sensei Rainer’s.  He had sushi, the barbecue was going constantly, there was salmon and pulled pork...and then there were the desserts!!!  Luckily I was on my Gasshuku eating plan!  It was a great opportunity to unwind and introduce my wife to some of the people that she hears about all the time, but has never met.  While we were there, I must say I came down with the worst case of Dojo envy that I think I’ve ever had.  I have set aside a little training space in my house for a Dojo.  After a little work, I thought it was beginning to look pretty good...then I went to Sensei Rainer’s house. His personal Dojo (also where he holds classes) is on the second floor overlooking QualicumBeach. I’m sure many a training session has been accompanied by a spectacular sunset visible from the Dojo window.  The Dojo itself is beautifully laid out with hardwood floors, pictures of the masters, Kobudo weapons and Japanese artwork on the walls - and all the amenities that a proper Dojo needs.  It was very inspiring to see the level of dedication that went into building that training area.

 As I said from a Gasshuku standpoint my journey was over that night.  My wife took a picture of me with Sensei(s) Nakamura, David Ching and Jody Ching in Sensei Rainer’s front yard with the sunset behind us.  Unfortunately the lighting was difficult for the camera to handle and the picture really doesn’t do justice to the scene that night.  Then my wife and I left to stay with friends before catching the ferry the next morning.

qualicum beach

 Unfortunately I missed the unique training session the next day.  Sensei Rainer had worked with Sensei Nakamura to time the Sunday morning training sessions to coincide with low tide on QualicumBeach.  I don’t have a lot of details about how the training sessions went, but suffice to say, the local Laundromat had a lot of dirty gi’s to wash that night!

OK, so now if you’ve been inspired to come out to a Gasshuku, that’s great!  But now I bet you’re thinking, “What about the fees, and the cost to get to a Gasshuku?”  Well, if you look at the fees for the last Gasshuku I went to, it worked out to about $10 an hour for some world class training.  When you think about it, you pay $20 to go to a two hour movie...and that’s before you buy popcorn!!!  No world class martial arts training and by sitting, you aren’t burning off that popcorn too quickly (the Gasshuku diet doesn’t apply at the movies!).  True that getting to a Gasshuku is not always cheap, sometimes the transportation costs can be sizeable.  Not to mention, there are a lot of Gasshuku going on in the IOGKF all the time, all over the world.  How do you choose?  My only advice is to be selective. You can’t possibly attend every Gasshuku, but maybe you can get to one or two a year. Then, depending on your personal financial situation, you may consider going to one in a distant part of the world. After having attended the Qualicum Beach Gasshuku, my wife has seen that at these events there is some training, but there is also some downtime between sessions.  So we now are very seriously considering attending a Gasshuku in South Africa next year.