Black belt gradings are usually conducted at the OTGKA honbu dojo in London over the course of a weekend under the watchful eye of Sensei George Andrews, 8th Dan. It is also possible to grade at an international gasshuku. The last grading was held at the start of March 2020, a few weeks before the first lock down. On this occasion, two Cambridge Goju Ryu students, David Wilson and Nick Gibbons, passed to 1st kyu (brown belt), the final grade before black belt.
Like many clubs around the world, Cambridge Goju Ryu transitioned from the dojo to training online via Zoom. While we miss the partner work and hitting the heavy pads, the online training format has worked surprisingly well for many people. It doesn't work for everyone unfortunately as it takes a clear demand on the family home and it can be difficult, if not impossible, to find a suitable space. We were lucky that several of our students have been able to keep up with the training.
In January 2021, with no likelihood of returning to the usual black belt grading format for many month, the OTGKA held it's first online black belt grading. Two Cambridge students were invited to take their tests, Steve Morrell and David Wilson. Both students have trained directly under Sensei George many times over the years so there would be no surprises. In the build up to the grading weekend, the students attended regular classes with Sensei George in addition to the Cambridge classes and some private corrective online training. The usual format was adhered to, with mandatory training on both Saturday and Sunday, followed by the grading after the Sunday training session. It was decided that it would not be appropriate to assess the knowledge of bunkai as this loses meaning without a partner and it obviously wasn't possible to partake in pad work. Anyone that has graded under Sensei George will know however that both students were still put through their paces, black belts are not given away, online training being no exception.
It is our great pleasure to congratulate both candidates, David Wilson to Shodan (1st dan) and Steve Morrell to Sandan (3rd dan). A hopefully unique experience but no less impressive than a "normal" black belt grading.
We would like to make a special commendation to David Wilson on passing his black belt test. At age 77 he is one of older members of the IOGKF and his tenacious commitment to training is remarkable. In 2018, shortly after his 75th birthday, David suffered a heart attack and later under went major surgery. Not only did he return to training before the end of the year, he traveled to Okinawa in 2019 to train at the IOGKF 40th anniversary Gishiki. David has embraced the online training opportunities and can often be found these days at International online gasshuku or training under Bakkies Sensei in South Africa. Nana korobi yaoki.
It was a little sad today as we couldn't properly celebrate the club's 11th anniversary, but we are privileged to have a great group of dedicated students that have supported us through the pandemic. Even though we couldn't share a beer together we still trained online and we'll look forward to getting together in the future.
I wouldn't normally write an end of the year review, but this year obviously hasn't been normal. While we are missing the dojo terribly, there have been plenty of positive moments to look back on.
Ten Year Anniversary
It feels like a lifetime ago, but in February we celebrated the ten year anniversary of Cambridge Goju Ryu. We held a training course with special guests Sensei George Andrews and Sensei Simon Oliver. It was great day and it feels me with great pride to look back at the photos of so many people training with us.
A few weeks later Nick and David traveled to London for a weekend of intensive training, at the end of which they were awarded 1st kyu pass. Little did we know that this would be the last grading weekend of the year. During the year we graded Debasish, Virginia and Cassius online, but nothing compares to a grading in the dojo.
The Move to Online Training
I remember our last class in March, we focused on Sanchin kata and naively thought that we would return to the dojo after the lock down. I had no plans to start teaching online, as surely that wouldn't work. A few weeks later we joined the Zoom revolution and started teaching from our home. We made a couple of changes, switching the Thursday evening classes to Saturday mornings and reducing the length of the classes to just one hour, and as I write this almost 9 months later we're still going strong. Space has always been a major concern of mine so we haven't practiced kata as I would like to and instead we have concentrated on smaller sections of the kata, which could be considered as more important than the full sequence. During this experience we haven't been alone of course. Sensei George soon began teaching the usual OTGKA weekend courses again, although just on a Sunday morning, and the IOGKF and other senior instructors have held online courses.
Demonstration for Japan Matsuri 2020
One of my proudest moments of the year was our involvement in the production of a ten minute demonstration video, which was used by Japan Matsuri Presents 2020.
Karate means different things to different people, although for us, self defense is the core purpose. However, self defense can also be interpreted in different ways. While self defense techniques from physical attack is of course very important, the process in which we obtain these skills should not be overlooked. One aspect that has perhaps been more important than ever this year is mental health, self defense from stress or anxiety. Hopefully this is something that can be achieved during a class, even if only for a short while as you sweat and forget about any issues of the day. With that in mind, for the first time at Cambridge Goju Ryu we celebrated Halloween and this weekend we hosted an online quiz.
Thanks to everyone that has supported the club this year, without you it would have been a much harder time. We look forward to returning to the dojo, but having survived this long we'll wait until it is the right thing to do. Wishing you a Happy Christmas and all the best for 2021.
We have started running two online classes per week. Please see the Classes page for details.
Last Class on Tuesday 17th March
It is with some sadness that we have decided that we'll have to cancel the adult classes until the situation improves. However, we will hold one last class on Tuesday 17th. It will be a very relaxed class practicing kata.
We are currently deciding the best course of action and will decide when to close the Saturday morning classes soon.
Video Classes for Home Training
We are considering the idea of uploading some short videos to help inspire you to continue training at home. Perhaps we could upload a new video every Tuesday and Thursday. Any thoughts?
Martin, Louise and Fabio
We are training as normal this week, but please keep up to date by checking this website as we might need to cancel classes at short notice. If you feel unwell, or have any concerns, please stay at home.
Martin, Louise and Fabio
On Saturday 15th February, Cambridge Goju Ryu celebrated it's ten year anniversary with a four hour seminar. Training was conducted by two very special guest instructors; Sensei George Andrews (Goju Ryu) and Sensei Simon Oliver (Shindo Jinen Ryu).
The club has been teaching adults during the week for ten years but in 2016 we expanded to include a class for children on Saturday mornings. Sensei George took the warm up session in which the young members of the club trained alongside the adults. Sensei Dave Amber then took the children for a separate session while Sensei George took the adults through a few basic techniques and combinations.
After a group photo and saying farewell to the children, the participants were split into two groups, black belts and kyu grades. Sensei George took the kyu grades through the complete sequence of ten San Dan Gi exercises, an important aspect of our fundamental training. The black belts were introduced to kata Seiryu by Sensei Simon Oliver, focusing on the self defense applications. Although this was outside the comfort zone of the group of largely Goju Ryu practitioners, it also felt strangely familiar. For more information about kata Seiryu, the Wikipedia entry for Konishi Sensei is a good start. In the final session of the afternoon, Sensei Simon introduced kata Seiryu to the kyu grades, while Sensei George took the black belts through a series of padwork drills followed by kakie (pushing hands).
After training, those that were able to make it relocated to The Dumpling Tree for a relaxed Chinese meal and a few beers. Martin and Louise felt honoured to be able to host an event with two great instructors of karate-do and to have been supported by so many of our students and friends. Particular thanks to those that traveled across the country in such bad weather. Thanks also to Sensei Dave for teaching the children and to Sensei Fabio Giovannoni for the original t-shirt design, the hand drawn Nio Guardians holding aloft the IOGKF kenkon.
Many thanks to Holly for taking the photos while suffering with a bad cold.
Thursday 19th December marked the last class of the year and we returned to our tradition of practicing kata 108 times. The significance of the number 108 at this time of year was described in this post from 2016. We took a break from this in 2017 and last year we practiced Shisochin kata 54 times as we were limited by the availability of the dojo. This year we practiced Gekisai Dai Ni. Many thanks to everyone that has supported the club this year. We are looking forward to 2020, with our ten year anniversary in February and several other events to look forward to.
Black belt grading examinations are taken under Sensei George, the OTGKA chief instructor, at the honbu dojo in London. We encourage our students to also take their 1st kyu grading on these occasions as it helps to avoid any surprises when attempting the black belt test.
It is with great pleasure that we can announce that Catherine successfully passed her shodan test this weekend, following 7 hours training and a 2 hour grading. Martin was promoted to 1st kyu, taking his last grading step on the path to black belt.