The OTGKA honbu dojo in London holds a black belt grading weekend twice every year, in March and September. It is recommended that students that are ready to take their final brown belt test take this opportunity to prepare themselves for the black belt test that follows. A year ago the club gained a new Goju Ryu black belt as Gary Potter passed to shodan, with Xorge Castro passed to 1st kyu. This weekend was time for Xorge to take his black belt test and for Catherine Rooney to take her 1st kyu test. I am delighted to report that both candidates were successful.
Every grading is special, but we were especially proud of Xorge as he is the first club student to take the full journey from white belt to black belt at Cambridge Goju Ryu. Of course, the real journey starts now!
Since the first International Gasshuku in 1979, at which the IOGKF was founded, a European Gasshuku has been held annually. In September 1987, Higaonna Sensei moved with his family to Southern California to establish a new dojo [wikipedia] and this expansion of the IOGKF into North America and Canada led, in 1989, to the creation of another annual IOGKF Gasshuku, the Miyagi Chojun Festival.
The Gasshuku was held this year in Burlington, Canada, home to the IOGKF Chief Instructor, Nakamura Sensei. Training started on Thursday 7th June, with an hour for black belts followed by a further three hours of training for all grades. The junbi undo session was taken by Bakkies Sensei, 9th Dan, and then we were split into smaller groups according to grade. Training continued over the following three mornings, finishing on Sunday 10th with demonstrations of kata and kakie by all of the course instructors. Bakkies Sensei (South Africa) and Nakamura Sensei were joined by Sensei Gene Villa (USA), Sensei Bobby Smith (Bermuda), Sensei Joe Roses (Australia), Sensei Linda Marchant (England) and Sensei Torben Svendsen (Denmark).
The training was superb, but it was also a chance to catch up with friends made at previous international Gasshuku and make new friends. We are especially grateful to Rob Langgartner for driving up to Toronto to collect us from our hotel. While we waited for our room at the Holiday Inn, the venue for the Gasshuku, Rob took us to the famous JC Bagels, where we were greeted by the owner Jack who insisted on giving us lunch. At the end of the Gasshuku Rob took us back to his house, where we shared a BBQ lunch with his wife, Sensei Adrienne, before taking us back to the airport. We are really grateful for their wonderful hospitality.
As this was our first trip to Canada, we took the opportunity to visit the incredible Rocky Mountains after the Gasshuku. We drove for 5 days from Edmonton to Calgary via Jasper and Banff. Before flying home, we met with another couple of new karate friends, Sensei David Ching (IOGKF Calgary dojo) and his wife Bea. After a trip to a great viewpoint of Calgary city, they treated us to a fabulous Chinese meal close to the airport.
Thanks to all the instructors and organisers of MCF 2018; it was a very special trip for us.
On Sunday 20th May a group of black and brown belt graded students gathered together at Impington Sports Centre for a few hours of training with Sensei George Andrews, 8th dan. With more than 50 years of karate training under his belt, Sensei George is one of the very highest ranked students of the IOGKF Supreme Master Higaonna Morio Sensei.
Following the traditional Junbi Undo warm up Sensei focused on kata and bunkai, starting with a detailed look at Saifa kata. Sensei George then spent some time with senior students on the higher kata, while Sensei Dick and Sensei Dave worked on Shisochin with brown belt students. The time flew past, but we came back together for the last half hour for San Dan Gi practice and a just enough time to practice Sanchin and Tensho kata.
As it was glorious weather outside we refreshed ourselves after training at the nearby Red Lion pub in Histon. Thanks to everyone that was able to come and support the event and many thanks to Sensei George for spending his Sunday with us. For those students that were not able to make it, we'll organise something else for later in the year, and of course everyone is very welcome to join us on our annual trip to Brussels in November to train with Masuyama Sensei and Kuramoto Sensei.
This evening we helped David, one of our students, celebrate a milestone birthday. We finished the usual warm up with 75 sit ups and 75 press ups, and then moved onto kihon practice, 75 punches, 75 basic blocks, 75 open handed blocks, 75 front kicks, etc... After class we all gathered together in the bar and ate pizza together.
There are many reasons why people are attracted to karate, whether walking into the dojo for the first time, or after many years of training. Karate as an effective combat system, sport or simply an interesting way to keep fit. Karate is often advertised for children as it promotes good discipline, confidence and social skills. Although karate can be considered an individual pursuit like yoga, running or weight lifting, we often spend time working with a partner or in small groups to practice self defence techniques, pad work and other training exercises. After time, great friendships develop, and in an international organisation like the IOGKF, some of these friendships can be with people living many miles away from each other.
In 2014, Martin and Louise traveled to Koh Samui, Thailand for a week of intensive training under Sensei George Andrews. During this trip they met Radhika Pandya and her husband Deepak. When Martin and Louise recently visited Singapore, they met up again, training together in the dojo and later for a great Szechuan meal. With great training comes great friendships that last beyond the dojo.
It's been a great week at the club, with gradings both at the Cambridge dojo on Thursday 31st August and at the black belt grading weekend in London 2nd/3rd September. Many congratulations to the following successful candidates:
Sarah Dawson 9th kyu
Bruno Goncalves 8th kyu
Sylvie Gonera 8th kyu
Rachel Bender 7th kyu
Adrian Galwin 6th kyu
Hannah Sanders 5th kyu
Nick Gibbons 4th kyu
Xorge Castro 1st kyu
Gary Potter shodan (1st dan)
Fabio Giovannoni sandan (3rd dan)
The OTGKA held a weekend of training over 18-20th August in the wonderful setting of Woldingham School in Surrey. This event was well attended by members of the Cambridge dojo. A report of the event can be read on the OTGKA website.
At Cambridge Goju Ryu we stick to teaching what we know, Okinawan Goju Ryu karate as taught by Sensei George Andrews and other senior instructors of the IOGKF. However, at the 2016 OTGKA Summer gasshuku we were introduced to the art of Okinawan Kobudo, specifically the Bo. This was very enjoyable but without regular practice even the basics were quickly forgotten. In response to interest from club members we invited Sensei Andre Leister, the guest instructor from the gasshuku, to teach a seminar in Cambridge. Over the course of three hours we were introduced to the Bo, a refresher for some and a first time for others. This took up the first half of the course, after which we moved on to Nunchaku / Nunchucks for an hour and finished with Tekko.
Thanks to everyone that came to support the seminar and special thanks for Sensei Andre (Ryukyu Kobudo Shimbukan) and his excellent young assistant Rachel for running such a great course. Feedback from all grades has been very positive.
February is the month in which the club celebrates it's anniversary, the ideal excuse to invite Sensei George Andrews, the OTGKA Chief Instructor, to Cambridge. As the club has recently expanded to include a children's class on Saturday mornings with Sensei Fabio, we added an extra hour of training to give the young members of the club the same opportunity as the adults.