Thursday, 22 August 2013

End of summer training.....

We’re getting towards the end of summer training now – just one more week to go…

Summer training was a concept my instructor introduced to our club a few years ago to help deal with the drop in student numbers over the summer holiday period.  Basically, the junior and senior classes are merged into one all summer. For the senior students this means starting classes an hour earlier than usual and for junior students its means they get 1.5 hour classes instead of just 1 hour.

There are obviously pros and cons to merging the classes this way. Sensei has to design lessons that suit the entire spectrum of students from white to black belts and from 6 year olds to middle-aged people. This is almost an impossible task and there are generally winners and losers. The main winners are probably the mid-graders, particularly the older children and adults as the classes are pitched much more to their level. The main losers are probably those at the extremes of the class – the youngest lower grades and the older senior grades.

It has been a challenge for sensei to get the right balance for these classes to ensure everyone gets something out of them. In previous years (in my opinion) the balance has been too much in favour of the children with lots of drills, sparring and games to keep the kids interested. However, this year sensei managed to pick a formula that has worked better for adults too.

We have spent the entire summer focussing on basic kihon and its relationship to the pinan katas, including bunkai. All of us benefit from really drilling the kihon and I mean really drilling the kihon – until you’re dripping with sweat and your legs feel like lead! Our younger or more junior members are particularly benefiting from this as there is plenty of scope for improvement in their basics but we  more senior students are also getting some insights into how to improve our body alignment and correct some simple mistakes or bad habits in our execution of kihon.  I particularly appreciate the opportunity to do this as I was pulled up on some fundamental errors in my basic kihon at my pre-dan course a couple of months ago. I’ve particularly been working on my spinal alignment and hip positioning over the summer and it’s all starting to feel much more natural now to tuck my pelvis under more during stance transitions.

We have also spent every lesson going through all the pinan kata in detail to improve both our performance of the kata but also the understanding of the applications of the kata in the form of ‘pinan drills’. This has been particularly suitable for the more senior students who value the opportunity to work on applications and benefit the most from doing so.

The classes have been very physically demanding all summer.  The warm-ups have been more like demanding work-outs and some of us oldies could have done with a warm-up before the warm-up! We have then gone straight into a demanding kihon session for about 20 minutes before being allowed a drink – and it’s been unusually hot weather here for a change. Then we’ve done all the kata several times each which, as you know, can be a workout in itself. This high-paced, physically demanding karate has suited the teenagers and older children best, though having said that the only students who have had to sit down because they felt ill have been teenage boys. We oldies stoically endure the discomfort so as not to be upstaged by some young pretenders (but we’ve been quietly feeling like death inside).

As Abraham Lincoln said: “You can please some of the people some of the time all of the people some of the time some of the people all of the time but you can never please all of the people all of the time.”  This has been true of these summer classes. On a personal level I am fairly easy to please most of the time so although these summer classes have been a bit of a beasting, on the whole I have enjoyed them and have got a lot out of them. Other students have found them less enjoyable and some students have avoided them altogether. I have missed not being able to work on the stuff that is more relevant to my forthcoming dan grading so I have had to work on that on my own at home but the classes are not all about me and I know that I will be getting plenty of attention as the grading draws closer.

We have one more week of the summer classes and then we will be back to our usual schedule and hopefully back to more application based karate and less fitness based karate.  The kids and junior grades will have gained a lot from working with the seniors and will have gleamed some insight into what to expect as they move up the ranks but will ultimately be better off returning to their normal classes where the pace is a little easier for little ones. Likewise the seniors should all be a lot fitter and sharper with their basics and understanding of the pinan katas but will be grateful to return to their usual training patterns.  

Does the style of your training change over the summer months? What do you think about it?

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