IOGKF 2010 Denmark European Gasshuku Report
By: Alexander Egeberg – IOGKF Denmark
IOGKF Danish Karate-Ka, Alexander Egeberg covers a record event for the IOGKF International Newsletter. This year’s European Gasshuku broke the record books with an astounding 850 participants looking, listening and sweating under Higaonna Sensei…
For many years, Higaonna Sensei has had a saying: “Look, listen … sweat!” I’ll get back to that later in this article.
The 2010 European Gasshuku was held in Copenhagen, Denmark. This is only the second time that Denmark has hosted the European Gasshuku (the first time was back in 1991).
More than 850 people from 20 different countries attended the event, which in fact made this the biggest European Gasshuku ever.
Over the last year, Sensei Henrik Larsen (chief instructor for IOGKF Denmark), had put countless hours into this project to ensure that not only would it be the biggest but also the best Gasshuku ever!
In order for this to happen, Sensei Henrik had gathered some of the very best instructors in the world. No less than six japanese instructors, and several senior instructors from various countries:
Sensei Morio Higaonna 10th dan (IOGKF World Chief Instructor)
Sensei Kazuo Terauchi 8th dan (IOGKF World Technical Advisor)
Sensei Katsuya Yamashiro 7th dan (IOGKF World Chairman)
Sensei Takashi Masuyama 7th dan (IOGKF Sweden)
Sensei George Andrews 7th dan (IOGKF England)
Sensei Ernie Molyneux 7th dan (IOGKF England)
Sensei Roy Flatt 7th dan (IOGKF England)
Sensei Henrik Larsen 7th dan (IOGKF Denmark)
Sensei Jorge Monteiro 7th dan (IOGKF Portugal)
Sensei Luis Nunes 7th dan (IOGKF Spain)
Sensei Tetsuji Nakamura 6th dan (IOGKF World Vice Chief Instructor)
Sensei Masakazu Kuramoto 6th dan (IOGKF Higaonna Dojo Senior Instructor)
Sensei Linda Marchant 6th dan (IOGKF England)
This was an amazing combination of instructors, each and every one of them adding their own personal touch to the Gasshuku, and ensuring that everyone would go home happy, tired and wanting to continue training harder than ever.
The only thing that in my opinion was missing was Sensei Bakkies Laubscher (8th Dan, IOGKF South Africa). He usually attends all the European Gasshuku’s, but this year in October, South Africa is hosting the World Ubuntu-Gasshuku, and Sensei Bakkies is very busy planning this event at the moment.
After the first day of training, Higaonna Sensei gathered everyone around him and gave us a piece of sad news.
This year, Sensei Geoff Pickup (IOGKF Thailand Chief representative) was killed in a motorcycle accident, and Sensei John Lambert (IOGKF Scotland Chief Instructor and one of the founding members of IOGKF International) passed away after battling cancer for the last couple of years.
It was clear that Higaonna Sensei was truly saddened by this, and he asked that while in seiza, we would all have a minute of silence to pay our respects. This was done, and even though there were 850 people of all ages in the room, it was completely silent.
The training lasted for 4-5 hours each day, giving people a chance to also spend some time seeing the wonders of Copenhagen.
Arrangements had been made for the children; so they could go on tours, go swimming and playing different games while their parents were training.
Sensei Henrik had, as I mentioned before, put a lot of hours into making sure that the Gasshuku and everything around it would run smoothly. However, a lot of credit also goes to Sensei Casper Petersen (Chief instructor of the Copenhagen IOGKF dojo) and everyone from his dojo volunteering to help out at the Gasshuku - well done!
As you probably can imagine, having 850 people training together can be quite a challenge - and even the largest sports hall will quickly start to feel small. Sensei Henrik started by pointing this out, but also emphasized that we had to enjoy the moment - after all, how often do you get the chance to stand together with 850 people, punching, kicking and screaming Kiai at the top of your lungs - what a rush!!!
After the all-grade training we were divided into smaller groups according to our grade, and went into different sports halls, thereby giving us more space to train, and a chance for the instructors to reach out to every single student.
For many years Higaonna Sensei has had a motto, as I started out by mentioning, called “Look, listen … sweat!” Higaonna Sensei always says this with a smile, and even though I’ve attended quite a lot of Gasshuku’s over the past 15 years, I’ve never really given it that much thought before. But at this Gasshuku it really struck me - and I think I finally understand what he means by it.
In other aspects of life, you see people paying for a service and expecting that service to be performed for you. You can pay someone to wash your car so you don’t have to do it yourself, or you can go to a seminar and be told, “This is the fast way to success and fame”.
In Karate however, it isn’t like that.
Your sensei, whoever it may be, isn’t supposed to make you better just by snapping their fingers. That’s not their job. Instead, their job is to give you the tools to become better - but you have to make an effort and not just lean back and wait for it to happen, as if by magic.
A famous opera singer once said, “There are no shortcuts to any place worth going”, and I think this is what makes IOGKF so special.
Try asking yourself the question: What is the essence of Goju Ryu? What defines us, and separates us from the other styles of martial arts?
The first thing that came to mind was “Higaonna Sensei”. However, as I began to think about it, I came to realize something. Don’t get me wrong; in my opinion Higaonna Sensei is the body and soul of Goju Ryu, and had if it had not been for him our style most likely wouldn’t be so rich in the culture and tradition as it is the case with the IOGKF today. Higaonna Sensei continues to inspire every time you see him - whether it’s while performing a Kata or doing something as simple as a punch, he never seizes to amaze.
Still, I feel that the Gasshuku’s are what truly defines Goju Ryu. A Gasshuku makes people from all around the world come together. No matter the color of their skin, religion, political views, age or social status, they all come together for one single purpose: to learn. Not just to learn a new Kata, or how to do a block or punch - but to become a better karate-ka, and thereby, a better person.
I remember at a Gasshuku many years ago, Sensei George Andrews asked the question: “What is the purpose of training Karate?” He paused, and then answered his own question: “The purpose is striving to achieve perfection”.
That was something that stuck with me for many years. Not only do we strive to do the perfect Kata or the perfect techniques, but also for the development of the perfect character/personality.
With many other styles of martial arts, people from different nations only come together to compete at tournaments - to show there superiority over one another. But in IOGKF we come together to learn, and to be better.
I remember Nakamura Sensei at this Gasshuku demonstrating a series of techniques and then saying: “I am not so good at it, but all the other senior instructors they do this very well” (even though he did the techniques with a skill and grace that I can only dream of being able to do someday).
That kind of humility is what I feel makes IOGKF so special - that no matter how many years you train and what level you are, you a still a student of Karate-do. You can still learn, and you can still become better - technically, as a Karate-ka, and as a person.
I think we all become better people at a Gasshuku. By training, laughing - and sweating - together...