I'm writing this post slowly. It was only a matter of time before something gave and last night it was a hyper-extended elbow. Typing, lifting, opening doors and driving are all activities which will involve some pain for a couple of weeks now and it's all thanks to a very hard dan-grade workout at Leicester Karate Association.
The group has several clubs in Leicestershire and has formed it's own independent association. Something I'm very wary of, as affiliation with one of the big boys (AMA, NAKMAS, WSKF, JKA) reassures of the quality of the grade awarded. It doesn't look like a money making machine or a McDojo from the website though so I made my usual enquiries via email to the club advising that I had been a shotokan student in my teens and would like to try Traditional Wado-Ryu.
When I arrived the first question is "what grade?" so I admit to being graded shodan in 1990 but suggest that I should be treated as a beginner as I don't have the fitness or speed of a black belt at the moment and the class begins.
The Sensei leading the class is an accomplished karateka who works the class extremely hard from the first minute. One of the exercises "the Row Boat" involves sitting, legs outstretch on the dojo floor, and pulling your body using the arms only, to the other side of the room, and back again, and back again, and again. Whilst I'm not as fit as I once was and am often caught out of breath in sessions, my arm strength has always been good and I've been working on it lately with the 100 push ups challenge so I was surprised at how slow I was compared to the other students, this is clearly a very fit bunch.
Once the exhausting warm-up is complete we begin Kihon practice. Sequenced kicks and punches. After a few Maegeri, Mawashageri, Gyakuzukis (front kick, round-house kick, reverse punch combo) I'm moved from the back line to the front and asked to join in the senior sequences. This becomes a slightly more complex shuto (knife hand block) front leg maegeri, gyaku-zuki, half-step junzuki (lunge punch), gyakuzuki, shuto, gyakuzuki... try it!
The truth is over the last year visiting a dozen clubs I've found things difficult and challenging at times but this combination of challenging but familiar is really attractive. We move on to kata and whilst the subtle differences between the Pinan kata in Wado and the Heian kata in Shoto wrong-foot me, again the memories of some sections come flooding back and I can almost make my way through them.
The class rounds off with sparring practice. I'm taken in hand by Sensei Rick and at one point am placed firmly on my arse. I'm slow in comparison to these wado boys and would have to work hard to catch up in this class to avoid some speedy (but thankfully gloved) fists.