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Paul Herbert 5th Dan
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ISKF Master Camp Turns 40

by Paul Willoughby

Ever wonder what it would be like to get together and train with 400-500 other karateka from around the globe? For the last 39 years, this opportunity has come around each year in early June when the ISKF holds its annual International Summer camp at Camp Green Lane, PA. Camp Green Lane is located in the picturesque Pennsylvania countryside approximately 45 minutes Northwest of Philadelphia and consists of cabins, a dining hall and training and recreational facilities. Master Camp is headed by ISKF Chief Instructor Teruyuki Okazaki and this year’s guest instructors will be sensei’s Takayuki Mikami (ISKF Southern), Yutaka Yaguchi (ISKF Mountain), Masaaki Ueki (JKA Tokyo), Hideo Ochi (JKA Europe), Shojiro Koyama (ISKF Western), and Shigeru Takashina (ISKF South Atlantic). The week-long training camp kicks off on the first Friday evening with an all ranks training session conducted by Okazaki sensei. During this first training session, Okazaki sensei usually pauses between drills to tell us about the theme of camp and provide words of encouragement for the students to work hard and improve themselves.

A typical day at camp consists of rising at 6:00 AM for training from 6:30 to 8:00, optional training from 11:00 to 12:00 and evening training from 4:30 to 6:00 PM. Even if you are not an early riser, nothing beats the serenity of morning meditation (mukosu) surrounded by beautiful scenery and the sound of birds singing. Throughout the week, themed training sessions are held and the various instructors circulate around the different training venues. The morning and evening training is divided by rank and there is a mid-day optional training that is open to all ranks, beginners through black belt. In the past I have found that the optional trainings have ended up being gems in which well known western instructors such as James Field, Frank Woon-A-Tai, Robin Rielly, Najib Amin and Maynard Minor expand upon themes from earlier classes. There are also special activities during the week such as lectures, dan exams, a bonfire and talent show and the goodwill tournament at the end of the week. Additionally, there are tennis courts, basketball courts and a swimming pool for those that have ample energy left over for recreation between training sessions.

Ever since attending my first Master Camp in 2001, I was so impressed by the level and diversity of the instruction and participants in the camp, I have returned every year since. There have been numerous lessons learned that have shaped my training on a technical level. I remember James Field stressing the importance of building a strong stance to give you the ability to drive into an opponent. I’ve had Frank Woon-A-Tai personally teach me how to lock my hip to achieve upper and lower body connection. I also learned the importance of relaxing the body from Shojiro Koyama. One particular class that changed some of my attitudes about karate forever was a session with Shigeru Takashina in 2001. Prior to that class, I had always been adamant about keeping the heel down at all times while executing techniques. The theme of this particular class was body shifting and in this particular drill, both the attacking and defending side started in a left side forward fighting posture (figure 1, below). The attacking side would slide in and execute a jab and then immediately perform a stepping punch. The defending side would slide back to avoid the jab (figure 2) and then step back with the left foot, block the stepping punch with the same side as the leg that stepped back (figure 3) and then immediately lunge back at the attacker with a punch (figure 4). The key to making this work was keeping the heel of the foot that steps back up off the floor with the rear leg slightly bent in order to use the leverage of the calf muscles and thighs to quickly change directions and spring back forward for the counter attack to stop him in his tracks. I now believe that the correctness of keeping the heel up or down is totally dependent on the circumstances. Additionally, in the past I had always favored shifting to the “dead” side of the opponent to take away an easy follow up technique. This drill has you shifting to the “live” side of the opponent. While having its disadvantages, shifting to the live side can sometimes catch the opponent off guard and can be very effective if you can pull it off.

Figure 1:

Figure 2:

Figure 3:

Figure 4:

This year will mark the 40th anniversary of ISKF Master Camp and Goodwill Tournament. To my knowledge, there is no other camp like it in the world in terms of the high quality of instruction and international participation. Master Camp showcases the international flavor of Shotokan with participants coming from over 30 different countries and although we are all from different cultures and backgrounds, we all enjoy coming together to share in the experience that we love – practicing karate. Over the years, I have made many new friendships that I look forward to renewing each year. I feel very fortunate that the camp is a mere 4 hour drive from my home. I highly recommend Master Camp to students of all levels and ages, particularly for kyu level students because the kyu level classes tend to be smaller, allowing for more individual attention from the instructors. Master Camp will be held from June 9-16, 2006 at Camp Green Lane. To learn more, visit www.iskf.com to download a camp brochure and view the slide show from previous Master Camps.