22 September, 2010

Every end is a new beginning.

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. 

As always I can only judge a school by my own knowledge of karate and what makes a good club but I can definitely say that this club seems no worse off for it's small association size, the standard of the dan grades is high and the junior grades have ok technique and excellent attitudes. The school also offers courses with senior instructors - the next on the 10th October with Sakagami Sensei (7th dan founder of The Wado-Ryu Aiwakai Karate-Do Federation) which I would love to attend.

For me this class was exactly what karate should be about. A solid teaching of the three Ks (Kihon, Kata and Kumite) with equal time given to each and with varying expectations according to grade so everyone learns something and no one gets bored. The etiquette and quality of the students was some of the best I've seen in Leicester and I think for now at least I've found my new martial arts home.

I'm going to try to train here and continue to go to other classes when I can but I'll also be blogging seperately about the transition from Shotokan to Wado Ryu as I think changing styles is a challenge that many Martial Artists have faced, I hope people find that journey as much fun as I have found this one.

So for now, Yasume!


  1. Hi suze, I'm glad you've found what you are looking for. You can't beat a good karate club (though I may be a little biased on that front!). Don't worry about the small size of the association - it certainly doesn't mean standards will be low. Our karate club moved out of a large organisation because of falling black belt standards and limited syllabus to form a new one (with 5 other clubs). Within 1 year we've grown to 600 members over about 9 clubs and the standard and breadth of our karate has gone up considerable. Our last shodan cohort were worked really hard to attain the standard needed to pass and were then grilled for over 5 hours on their test!
    Make sure we can link to your new blog when it's up and running. Hope the elbow heals quickly and thanks for sharing your varied martial arts experiences with us - it's been an interesting journey!

  2. Thanks for that Sue, I hope I'll be able to carry on reviewing clubs as well as continuing my own training. I've leart a lot from the experience but I'm looking forward to some consistency too. Bests wishes. Suze.

  3. Congrats! Sounds like you've found a new home :-)

    Best of luck with your training and like Sue said, please be sure to let us know where your new blog will be as transitioning from one style to another is an interesting venture...

    Hope to hear from you soon...

  4. Great post thanks for sharing such informative post.
    Martial Arts Equipment

    Keep it Up