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Paul Herbert 5th Dan
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Do not think of winning. Think rather, of not losing

Following one problem with Emma’s knee came another, and training had become increasingly hard and painful for her. Time to heal meant that Emma and I were able to travel and train once again without the hindrance and agony of a buckling knee that had once made training so difficult. 

This past weekend, Emma and I trained once again with Sensei Dave Hazard, and after the S.S.K.I Course just two weeks ago; we didn’t really know how he could out-do himself. Our question was immediately answered as he called line up, and introduced us into the basic sequence we would be working with for the beginner’s class.

The first class on Saturday – the beginner’s class – dealt with the sequences:

Oi-tsuki (zenkutsu-dachi) – Uraken-uchi (kiba-dachi) – Shuto-uchi (kokutsu-dachi)

Age-empi (zenkutsu-dachi) – Yoko-empi (kiba-dachi) – Ushiro-empi (kokutsu-dachi)

Here, during kihon training, Sensei taught us valuable ways to take care of our joints when striking uraken-uchi, and to not be fooled by false-feedback that is all too often misinterpreted as power – the point being that the only person that should feel the shock of impact should be the person sprawled out on the floor.

In partner work, I trained with a very nice karateka, also a member of ASK, who challenged me to stay alert, keeping me on my toes so as not to get clobbered in the face.

During the second course of the day, the first advanced class of three, Sensei again looked at kihon training, which merged very nicely into some freestyle fighting. Sensei gave us an insight into a different world, as he made his opponents dance, and while partnered up with Emma he gave her one piece of advice that she has said changed her entire outlook. He said ‘Don’t worry about hitting him, don’t let him hit you’. Although a very simple comment, one that could very easily have been overlooked made Emma realize something truly very valuable. As the twenty precepts by Master Funakoshi state ‘Do not think of winning. Think rather, of not losing’.

All too often we get sucked into the idea of getting that point, or making sure your punch lands where you wanted to, when in reality, all that really matters is that you don’t get hit, don’t get stabbed and that you don’t die. Sensei Hazard’s karate is Budo-karate, down to the letter, and you can see when he blocks, he blocks for his life, and the technique he does execute on the unlucky opponent may be the difference between life and death. This I have come to realize is the true spirit of Karate-Do.

The Advanced class dealt primarily with the concept of double blocking, where we took a simple age-uke, soto-uke, gedan-barai combination and adapted it for both basic and freestyle kumite. Furthermore, throughout the class, Sensei encouraged us to use the floor appropriately when in kumite, giving us an insight into the elements that make his karate so effective.

Emma and I have a kind of routine after every good karate class. We sit on the hotel bed together (hang on...nothing rude) and re-run through the karate class, to ensure we fully understand the points taught throughout the class, and to make notes in my sacred note pad, which I take everywhere with me. This usually takes about an hour or so. On a Dave Hazard course? Oh no! We arrived back at the hotel at four, and we didn’t stop for… wait for it...four hours. Four whole hours, six pages of A4 later, with aching legs and arms Emma and I still were making notes!

Anyway, back to the story…the second day was equally as informative, but doubly as painful. As ridiculous as it may sound, the day before, I punched someone, and caught my thumb on the guy’s lapel, and something dodgy happened. Add on that some hard worked muscles, and you’ll get the gist of how everyone felt on the Sunday course.

Sensei Hazard kindly strapped my thumb up, the JKA way, which certainly helped, but as for my legs, they were dead weights. With all the will in the world, when Sensei taught us the mae-geri, mawashi-geri, ura-mawashi-geri, ushiro-mawashi-geri sequence, I felt like an old man.  Sunday’s first class dealt mostly with how to position your body when kicking, to achieve optimal effect, which was excellent, and it was here that Emma excelled and impressed me, as she always does. She always puts herself down, and is overtly critical, and no matter how many times I tell her how good she really is, she shrugs it off. It took just one ‘Good’ remark from Sensei, and she was as chirpy as the irritating seagull living in my Exmouth flat. I guess that’s his motivational gift, and guess what, this motivation made her work harder and develop faster throughout the weekend.

Sunday was also great because we had the great opportunity of watching Sensei Simon Staples in action, and boy can he move. The speed, power and high level of skill was very inspirational, and you can see the obvious influence that Sensei Hazard has had on Sensei Staples.

One of the best parts of the weekend was the fact that I got to meet and train alongside some fantastic and truly inspirational karate, including Simon Staples, who I have already mentioned, but also Simon Oliver, who was so welcoming and friendly. There’s a reason that ASK is one of the best Shotokan Organizations in Britain, and with a Chief Instructor like Sensei Hazard, and a team of instructors like the above mentioned (and other’s), what else would you expect?

The final class of the weekend dealt with the kata Gojushiho sho, one of the most advanced of the Shotokan style. I remember being taught this by Sensei Hazard some four years ago, and I often re-read through the older notes that I have made, just to refresh my memory and put into place what I already know. Just when you think you know a kata though, you learn four pages more, and this is a very humbling feeling, and helps keep me wide-eyed and excited about karate.

I hate to say ‘this karate Instructor’s karate is brilliant because…’ for this I feel trivializes the instructors skill, and limits their talent to a simple word or phrase, but I’m going to be an absolute hypocrite here. For me, I am so inspired by Sensei Hazard because he loves karate. In everything technique he executes, in the way he talks about karate, underlying it all, you can see a real passion for this art. This inspires me, and makes me want to be better. I have a long way to go, and I wouldn’t want the road to be any shorter, or that I reach the finish line any faster. I enjoy karate…no I love karate, and even when I can’t kick the way I want to, or when I can’t punch as fast as I’d like to, I keep training because I love Karate, an attitude shared by all on the course this weekend.

Shaun Banfield