IOGKF Canada Fuyu Gasshuku with Sensei Paolo Spongia

By: Tirrell Hill – IOGKF Canada

An event that has had years of anticipation, finally saw Sensei Paolo Spongia, IOGKF Italy Chief Instructor, travel to Canada to teach IOGKF members about Zen and Goju-ryu Karate along with their links. With support from Nakamura Sensei and Kobudo Instructor Sensei Todsen, this event lived up to its expectations and was definitely worth the wait…

Description: C:\Users\DJ\Pictures\Events2011\event.2011.Jan.Canada.jpg

The IOGKF Canada Fuyu Gasshuku was held in January of 2011 and was the first major event to be  hosted at the new Shudokan Dojo (honbu dojo of IOGKF Canada) of Nakamura Sensei (6th Dan Goju-Ryu Karate-Do, Chief Instructor IOGKF Canada, Vice Chief Instructor IOGKF International), and was a tremendous success, welcoming not only many members from IOGKF Canada, but also from IOGKF USA and abroad.

As I report on the various aspects of training that took place over a three-day period, I would like to extend to those reading this article a unique piece of advice from Spongia Sensei from his recent article in the December 2010 of the IOGKF International newsletter that directly reflects the atmosphere of the Fuyu Gasshuku and what it was like having the tremendous opportunity to learn from such a knowledgeable and unique individual.

“To change perspective one needs to have the courage to abandon his own position, a position he has gained perhaps with many efforts, using 'teeth and nails' to reach it. The abandonment of our own position puts us in a state of disorientation after which our view of the world is enriched with new elements and insights.”

Sensei Paolo Spongia {6th Dan Goju-Ryu Karate, Chief Instructor IOGKF Italy}, IOGKF International Newsletter, December Edition, 2010.

As many of us have attended various Gasshuku’s, whether regional, National or International, this adage from Spongia Sensei is something that stood out in my mind throughout the entire event. Many times a change in perspective can help us overcome personal obstacles in our own training, or help us better educate junior students in their training. However, if you choose to view this “change in perspective” that Spongia Sensei refers to in the above quotation, it is an essential part to successful training and life in general and was something that was highly noticeable in the atmosphere of this Gasshuku.

However, allow me to begin with my report of the 2011 IOGKF Canada Fuyu Gasshuku.

Day 1

The Gasshuku began on Friday evening following the first of three Zen sessions with Spongia Sensei. Training began with an intensive and unique junbi undo introducing unique exercises to promote overall flexibility and relaxation of the joints, specifically the spine. Spongia Sensei further explained that these exercises were Chinese in origin and also stressed the importance of spine flexibility in Goju-Ryu Karate-Do and how a flexible spine is essential to the generation of power in the Kata.

Following junbi undo, training moved onto kihon; as Spongia Sensei further explained the use of the spine to generate power. We also practiced many basic techniques with suri ashi and also some unique combination techniques in happo sabaki as well as unique variations on ten tsuki and furisute.    Friday evening's training concluded with Sanchin training and the introduction of some partnered Sanchin training exercises to help promote sensitivity and the “feeling” of the tanden during training and also the concept of “rooting” to the ground.

It was very intriguing to see the parallels that can be drawn between the practice of Karate and Zen that came through during Sanchin training, the change in perspective that Spongia Sensei provided left all participants of the first evening of training with a sense of accomplishment and ambition for the following day.

Day 2

The second day of the Gasshuku was a full schedule, beginning with group training led by Spongia Sensei and later splitting into two main groups of black belt attendees and kyu grades.

During the morning's junbi undo Spongia Sensei once again introduced some interesting partnered hojo undo exercises, some of which also reinforced ne-waza defensive principles.

Following this, the first training session with Nakamura Sensei, for black belt attendees, focused on kata training, specifically Seiyunchin. Nakamura Sensei focused on the details of the performance of Seiyunchin and reinforced the topic of spine flexibility that Spongia Sensei introduced the previous evening. After many repetitions of Kata, Nakamura Sensei went on to explain various fighting techniques, inclusive of trapping techniques, guard breaking techniques and some of the many one-handed attacking combinations that exist in Goju-Ryu Karate-Do.

Next, the black belt attendees went on to train with Spongia Sensei who began with San Dan Gi training. Sensei Spongia introduced several variations on San Dan Gi, including a gyaku waza variation (specifically jodan ude garami), a nage waza variation as well as a keri-waza variation. Following San Dan Gi training, Spongia Sensei went on to teach his Renzoku Saifa bunkai.

Saturday's training concluded with kobudo training with Todsen Sensei (4th dan Ryukyu Kobudo Tesshinkan) of Qualicum Beach, British Columbia. Training focused specifically on the bo staff, it's basic techniques inclusive of striking and blocking as well as a brief period spent on Kata training, specifically Shushi No Kon (Dai).

Approximately 70 attended the Kobudo workshop with Todsen Sensei, and it was a tremendously motivating experience to learn from such a patient and knowledgeable Kobudo Sensei. It was also interesting how many parallels Todsen Sensei drew between Goju-Ryu Karate and Kobudo, in regards to tachi-waza and the development of power. Just as in Goju-Ryu, Kobudo uses many stances, zenkutsu, shiko and neko ashi dachi as well as the rotation and movement of the hips and spine to create power. Overall, the second day of the Fuyu Gasshuku was a highly educational and motivational experience.

Day 3

The final day of the Fuyu Gasshuku included more interesting warm-up exercises which focused on basic iri kumi skills, such as spacial awareness, movement skills and defensive techniques. Also, Spongia Sensei introduced some interesting Kakie training, focusing on developing sensitivity with various partners as well as the flow between various Gyaku waza, and developing a sense for the timing of various hazushi waza. Spongia Sensei also introduced another training method from China, a two-handed Kakie variation.

The 2011 Fuyu Gasshuku was a tremendous success for all who attended. It was a treasure to have the opportunity to learn from such great teachers, Nakamura Sensei and Spongia Sensei and to experience how their “change of perspective” can alter the individual’s approach to Karate-Do, and how we view our progress and continue to concurrently develop mentally and physically.