England EGKA 40th Anniversary

Higaonna Sensei & Nakamura visited England for the 40th Anniversary Gasshuku of the EGKA with Sensei Ernie and English members. Everything from top quality training to world class opera singers were involved in this special event. For pictures and more check out the FREE IOGKF International Magazine!

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This Gasshuku had a special feel about it from the moment the idea was conceived, a feeling born of historic prestige and achievement. 40 years is worth celebrating for any organisation but for the EGKA the journey has been very special, a journey inspired and led by some of the finest martial artists past and present.

A total of 462 individual Karate-ka registered for the Gasshuku Including representatives from Denmark, Spain, Iceland, Scotland, France & Belgium.

On the English Goju-Ryu Karate Association (EGKA) webpage set up for the Gasshuku

Sensei Ernie voiced his thoughts -

It seems a life time ago when Sensei James

Rousseau formed what was to become the EGKA in1973, and it is a testament to all the people over the last four decades who have contributed so much to make the

Association the success we all enjoy today.

I hope you will join me in Liverpool to enjoy what promises to be a very special long weekend of celebrations and training. Training will be led by Sensei Higaonna, assisted by Senseis Tetsuji Nakamura, Roy Flatt, Paul Nolan and myself.

 

It was also good to see a number of other students from other associations and styles, all-in-all though the turn-out not necessarily a surprise given the list high calibre of the instructors that  Sensei Ernie explained above.

 

Pre-Gasshuku

For those of us lucky enough to attend the Thursday evening class held at Sensei Roy’s Childwall dojo, which was graced with the presence of both Sensei Nakamura and Sensei Ernie. With the class split into seniors and juniors with Sensei Ernie taking the Seniors for the first half whilst Sensei Nakamura took the junior grades and then swapped around for the second half. The time just vanished as Sensei Ernie led the class through kumite drills followed by Sensei Nakamura leading the Seniors through Sepai kata, emphasising the use of both Go and Ju techniques.

During the spring Gasshuku Sensei Nakamura left people in awe of his ability, impeccable technique delivered with a power and a grace that pushed that boundaries of what appears possible. Yet during his appearance in Liverpool for the Anniversary Gasshuku, Sensei Nakamura left a lasting impression showing that his command of Goju Ryu has visibly grown beyond even what we witnessed in the Spring. They say a good teacher teaches but a great teacher inspires, given the heritage of IOGKF, the ability to deliver such inspiration has to be an essential requirement, one that Sensei Nakamura is clearly in command of. The future of the IOGKF is certainly in safe hands.

Friday

Friday evening was reserved for Dan grades only and was led by Saiko Shihan Morio Higaonna. Participants all turned up in good time eager for the commencement of this special Gasshuku and the opportunity to train with one of the worlds leading karate masters. It was great to see so many people in attendance and also to reconnect with so many friends from various Gasshuku’s around the world. The session ran from 18:00 to 21:00 hours and commenced with the unique IOGKF Junbi Undo (preparation exercises) with emphasis placed on correct performance with Sensei Higaonna providing detailed explanations on correct posture, breathing, timing and the use of the hips.

Sensei Higaonna led from the front inspiring students not only with his exemplary technique but also with a speed, power and spirit that belies his age and reinforces his status as one of the foremost Karate Masters of our time. During this part of the session Sensei explained that Junbi Undo is a fundamental part of Goju Ryu karate, that whilst the routine was designed to warm up and prepare the mind and body for Karate practice, the techniques themselves are part and parcel of the system and need to be executed with exactly the same gusto and attention to detail as that required in any other Karate technique.

Following the Junbi Undo Sensei Higaonna then led the Dan grades through kihon (basics), with particular emphasis on a spirited delivery of basic tsuki (punching) and uke (blocking) techniques with speed and power. Particular emphasis was given to the importance of relaxation in delivering fast technique, culminating in continuos relaxed fura-tsuki’s (short punches) and age-tsuki’s.

The final part of the evening was dedicated to the practice of Sanchin kata where Sensei Higaonna demonstrated correct movement and breathing. Sensei emphasised the importance of keeping the feet in full contact with the floor throughout the Kata and the need to keep elbows tightly in position to protect the ganka. Sensei Higaonna made particular emphasis to the importance of correct posture then went on to explain 3 types of breathing - tandem, chest and stomach and their relevance both during and post performance of Sanchin kata. Like all good things in life the evening flew, culminating with a hearty applause from a hall fall of hot, sweaty and happy karateka.

 

Saturday

A junior session was held between 10:15 to 11:15 hours on the Saturday morning and was carefully co-ordinated to ensure the continued smooth running of the weekend.

The Saturday adult/cadet session commenced at 12:00 hours and ran through to 16:00. This time Sensei Ernie led the Gasshuku through Junbi Undo before handing over to Sensei Higaonna for a session on Kihon (basics). The front line was made up of senior IOGKF grades with over half the line made up from 6th and 7th Dan’s from all over Europe including Sensei Luis Nunes (Chief Instructor, Spain), Sensei Torben Svendsen (Denmark), Sensei Linda Marchant (London) who has recently returned from gaining her 7th Dan at the Okinawa Chief Instructors Gasshuku, Sensei Peter Galer (Birkenhead), Sensei Steve Gouldson (Shinzato), Sensei Mike Draper (Liverpool), Sensei Steve Hallam (12 Quays), Sensei Nigel Thomas (London), Sensei Neville Kinghorn (London), Sensei Felix Nelson (London). The seniors spread out amongst the hall to provide further help and inspiration for the lower grades.

Sensei Higaonna continued the themes from the previous evening, giving all the Dan grades the opportunity to practice and consolidate on the lessons learned from Friday. Following approximately an hour the kihon session a short break was introduced prior to the Gasshuku being split into groups according to grade. Then as the weekend progressed the Gasshuku instructors took turns with each of the groups.

For 4th Dan and above the first session was led by Sensei Ernie who led the group through the finer points of Seisan kata. Sensei Ernie broke the kata down into sections, emphasising the key points in the execution of the techniques in each through explanation and demonstration then drilling these in to the group through repeated practice. Following the Kata Sensei Ernie then took the class through the kihon bunkai (basic applications) of Sepei. Sensei Ernie ramped up the pace of the Bunkai and built the applications up to achieve a more fluid transition through the correct sequence of the Bunkai, reflecting the style of Bunkai delivery that Sensei Ernie has now built into the grading syllabus. For the Bunkai I was partnered off with Sensei Tony Smith from Herefordshire. It was a pleasure to train with Sensei Tony again, the last time I partnered him was during the 2004 Budosai in Okinawa bringing back some great memories. Unfortunately time was against us and despite the pace driven by Sensei Ernie we ran out of time before we could complete the full sequence of all of the Kihon Bunkai.

The final session on Saturday for 4th Dan and above was taken by Sensei Roy who continued the kata and bunkai theme with Kururunfa. This time I partnered someone I’d not met before, Sensei Klaus from Denmark. Sensei Klaus was excellent to train with and very much reinforced what I’d come to expect from Danish IOGKF, excellent technique, fast, powerful and a great attitude. It was a real pleasure to partner Klaus as we tore into the bunkai with gusto.

 

 

Once again the training time flew by and the session came to an end. All in all a great day of training surrounded by like-minded Karate-ka who exemplify the IOGKF family.

 

 Saturday Night

Some of the Karateka headed off to the heart of a city on Saturday night to take advantage of the many fine restaurants, bars and clubs. But for those of us fortunate enough to have and invitation to the Instructors dinner we made our way to the Palm Sugar Lounge at the the top of Liverpool One (the new city centre shopping centre). Palm Sugar is one of Liverpool’s top restaurants offering Thai food in luxurious and exotic surroundings. The instructors were treated to an excellent performance by international opera singer Natsuko Mineghishi accompanied by Haruna Takebe on piano. This was a special gift from Sensei Higaonna who had flown Natsuko all the way from Australia and Haruna from Spain in order to deliver a unique performance to mark the 40th Anniversary of the EGKA. Classic Italian and Japanese operatic songs followed by local classics including the Beatles ‘Norweigan Wood’ & the Liverpool Football Club anthem ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’.

Following this the guests were led to their tables to enjoy a first class Thai banquet, before finishing back in the bar area for a few well deserved drinks to round off the evening.

 

Sunday:

The Sunday session commenced with Sensei Roy leading the Gasshuku through Junbi Undo, again with the senior grades spreading out amongst the hall to assist participants where required. This led on to the Kihon session with Sensei Higaonna issuing those familiar phrases ‘Moichido!’ and ‘Challenge yourself!’.

As this Sunday is a special day in the United Kingdom where we remember those who have lost their lives in wars fighting for their country. On this day it is customary to hold a moment of silence at 11:00 hours and so Sensei Ernie brought the Gasshuku to a pause to pay our respects.

 Following the minute’s silence there was the a short break before we moved back into our groups. For 4th Dan andabove we moved to Sensei Paul’s group and commenced an excellent matt work session where we partnered off to run through a variety of practical self-defence situations.

 Again I was fortunate to partner off with Sensei Klaus from Denmark we soon built up a hard sweat working through numerous sequences often ending in throws or take-downs. Sensei Paul encouraged everyone to utilise their experience as senior grades by responding naturally and pragmatically to improvise on the basic technique.

The final session for our group was with Sensei Higaonna who led the group through Suparinpei, the longest and most senior kata in the Goju Ryu system. Sensei initially took the group through the entire kata, scrutinising our performance and then breaking it down section by section. Each section was repeated many times, ‘Moichido… Moichido’ giving students an opportunity to practice and embed the pointscovered by Sensei Higaonna. Sensei reinforced aspects from Sanchin kata that bear relevance to Suparinpei, such as maintaining good posture and keeping the feet flush to the floor whilst stepping. He also emphasised points arounds speed, timing and use of the tandem in various parts of the form.

At the close of training the attendee’s were treated to a superb demonstration. It commenced with a unique performance by Natsuko Mineghishi, combining her talents in both karate and singing with an operatic take on four Shotokan kata, narrated by Shotokan legend Sensei Terry O’Neill.

 

 

This was followed by IOGKF Chief Instructor Sensei Tetsuji Nakamura who demonstrated an exemplary perfomrance of Supraenpei, the most advanced Kata of the Goju Ryu School of Karate. Then, IOGFK Vice Chief Instructor and Chief Instructor of the EGKA Sensei Ernie Molyneux performed Sanchin the fundamental Kata of Goju Ryu, whilst being tested by IOGKF Saiko Shihan Morio Higaonna in what can only be described as a Masters demonstration of both the Kata and the Shime (testing).

 

Sensei Higaonna then moved on to an impresive demonstration of Kakie (Goju style pushing hands), the power and grace in which Sensei Higaonna applied a combination of locks and strikes exerting total controla nd judging by the odd facial expresssion, a modicum of pain to his partner. A demonstration all the more impressive when you realise the quality of his partner, Sensei Torben Svensen, 6th Dan IOGKF from Denmark.

The demonstration concluded with a demonstration of something that Sensei Higaonna has become famous for, conditioning against a rock. The rock was supplied by Sensei Peter Galer (6th Dan EGKA, Birkenhead Dojo), and bravely held in place by Sensei Luis Nunes (IOGKF Chief Instructor for Spain) and Sensei Mike Smith (4th Dan EGKA, Hooton Dojo) as Sensei Higaonna enthusiastically pummelled the rock with a multitute of strikes from the Goju Ryu Syllabus.
 

 Sunday Night

The Gasshuku was formally closed in the traditional manner with a Sayonara Party held at the Alicia Hotel on Aigburth Drive in Liverpool. The party was well attended and the Alicia put on a fine spread of plentiful food, which was well received by Karateka having built a good appetite from the previous 3 days of hard training. People relaxed and enjoyed the evening which included a slideshow of photographs reflecting the lifetime of the EGKA, bringing back memories of youth, and courtesy of moustaches and afro’s, a dab of fashion trends through the decades. Sensei Ernie was presented with a large birthday cake to mark the 40 years of the EGKA and the celebrations went on long into the evening as people reflected on a superb Gasshuku and on the great achievement of EGKA, here’s looking forward to the next 40 and may it continue to grow from strength to strength!

From start to finish the event ran smoothly and was clearly seen as a great success by all who attended. A big thank you to all of the Gasshuku instructors to Sensei Ernie, Sensei Roy and Sensei Paul from EGKA and especially to Sensei Higaonna and Sensei Nakamura who travelled from Okinawa and Canada respectively, to provide first class instruction and inspiration to all the participants. The final word must be to congratulate Sensei Ernie and Sensei Roy both organising an excellent Gasshuku and on their leadership and commitment that has built the EGKA into the great organisation that it is today!