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Paul Herbert 5th Dan
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Crawley, England had an eventful start of the year; it hosted its first FSKA karate seminar at the ever popular K2 sports arena.  The Chief Instructor of the FSKA, Funakoshi Course CrawleyKenneth Funakoshi Shihan was the visiting Instructor. Funakoshi Shihan seminar was always an exciting one to attend.  It reminds me of old Japanese courses in the mid 1990’s.  Renowned courses held by the late Asai Shihan and other prominent Japanese instructors.  My own impression was that it was quite simply an education and quite refreshing. Although this course was held privately, it nevertheless attended by karate-kas from Europe, in particular Germany, Poland, Latvia and of course the host UK.

The first day is what I call a warm up. Shihan Funakoshi started us out going back to the basics. He mentioned that learning karate is not only about learning advance techniques.

I don’t want to write about a blow by blow account of what we did, which this can be tiresome to read.  I’ll try instead to give an overview of what the each day happened and highlight the techniques worth learning. Shihan kicked off with the basics the usual punching, stances, stepping correctly and weight shifting correctly and using the hips properly.  He paid particular attention on how the gyaku tsuki is delivered in zenkutso stance, attention to how we generate force by the delivery of our technique.  He explained that it is not only through the use hip rotation that generates the force but a culmination of other things as well furthermore he added that the force must begin from the ground up.  We did a lot of working starting from SHOMEN to HANMI to SHOMEN.  We then incorporated the delivery of gyaku tsuki by advancing forward and backwards.  After what seemed like an eternity in perfecting this technique he added what I thought to be most interesting.  I’ve always thought that in delivery of tsukis that the arms and the hip must tense upon impact. This was not the case. He mentioned that to be able for the body to receive the recoil and deliver the most effective punch, the leg must straightened and hips must be at SHOMEN be fore the actual extension OF THE PUNCH. Shihan demonstrated how effective this was and it was amazing.  Shihan Funakoshi finished off the day by asking us what kata we all want to learn.  Since it was predominantly attended by Dan grades we decided on Tekki Sandan, I was quite surprised that few of us know the kata well.   Waking up sore from doing countless repetition of gyaku tsuki in zenkutso the day before, the 2nd day of Shihan’s training was something I didn’t look forward to, it was grueling.   Again back to the basics, after two hours we kicked of with more advance black belt training. Kumite combinations. Shihan simply amazed everyone that at 71 years he can still deliver combination with such speed.  I should know, I was the receiving end of this demonstration. He concentrated on mae-geri how one can deliver with timed precision and better under that gedan block, I’ve seen Japanese fighters done this many times at their tournaments and to practice this first hand was like being a kid at a candy store.  I just wanted to learn everything I can about this technique again its all about the delivery.

After lunch, we kicked off more in advance kumite combination-Kizami-Gyaku tsuki 3 versions on how one can deliver this technique. Endless repetitions suffice to say and ended the day with more katas this time, Heian katas.  Shihan was quick to point out that many Dan grades forget their Heians these days due largely by concentrating too much on higher katas for competition and we drilled all Heians till our legs shook.   I went back to the hotel a lot sorer than the day before. Went out to dinner with Shihan and had the best time talking to him; reminiscing about the past, his time studying and training karate under the late Asai Shihan. How he made a great impact into what he has become today. One can see that they had a strong bond, not only as a teacher and a student, but as friends and brothers of the same profession.   The last day of training which was expected to be more exciting, I meant grueling. Again started off with few minutes of basics, and then covered more on advance Kumite, then katas. Shihan separated everyone by grade level-just like Dan testing…he worked every group one after the other, advance kihon Funakoshi Course Crawleycombinations to Katas, critiquing each groups on how best they can improve their techniques, what to look for.  Later on that night, we went to dinner with Shihan, yours truly had the chance to talk to him personally -- We talked about karate teaching philosophies and life. For me, that was a night to remember. Unfortunately, we had to go back to Germany. As for Shihan, next stop is not home, but Poland. The FSKA course was fun and inspiring.   I look forward to another great course from Funakoshi Shihan.