I recently returned from my first Gasshuku (Karate training camp). I had been really excited about the prospect of going to one for a long time (I was unable to go last year due to the dates) and I would have to say that it exceeded my (high) expectations.
With 6 – 8 hours in the dojo each day I (obviously) learned plenty about karate, but outside of the dojo I also learned so much (about karate, about myself, and life in general). I had the opportunity to mingle with karateka from various clubs and styles ranging widely in age (5 – 83!!) and rank (adults from 6th kyu (ie me) to 7th or 8th Dan and Juniors from 10th Kyu to Dan ranks). There was a very high percentage of yudansha (black belt ranks) and most were more than willing to have a chat about karate, their journey and / or life in general, as were all the participants.
My mind is so crammed at the moment with thoughts and impressions. As usual, some information made immediate sense and other concepts will have to be stored and mulled over to be made sense of in the fullness of time. For the sake of brevity I will just mention some key points and highlights for me. Chronicling my lessons at the end of each day was a somewhat difficult task, due to a combination of the long days and difficulty remembering every detail by the end. As for photos, most of my photos are ones I took on my morning run since there was no time or opportunity to take pictures while I was training.
Highlights for me were:
- Delving into modern Arnis (Fillipino fighting art which uses sticks).
- Impact / bag work with a focus on developing power / strength / conditioning. There were some interesting boxing / kick boxing style techniques that I found particularly useful in terms of generating power.
- Participating in a kumite tournament (I didn’t think this would be open to me considering my rank but when the opportunity presented…..well….I am a hopeless case!)
- Training kihon and ido on the beach / in the sea after a particularly long and sweaty day.
- Having my Sensei around to touch base with and ask questions so I could contextualise what I was learning with respect to how it fitted with our style and also just to chat with about kata / regular training.
- Having feedback about various things (stances / basics / kumite) from various other Sensei within the network.
Lessons I learned about myself during 2 days of fairly intensive (physical and cognitive) training:
- My mind is my most important tool in every task. With enough practice I can achieve it if I make up my mind to do it!
- I am able to train hard and concentrate without much sleep (probably not desirable but certainly possible).
- I can do more hard physical training than I thought I could and still come back for more the next day / the next session.
- I can run faster and further than I thought I could (especially if the motivation is not getting push ups for being late to a session because I took too long on a pre-training / pre-dawn run…. 🙂 )
- Standing at the very end of a long line (ie being the lowest rank by a good chunk) can be a motivating, rather than humiliating experience.
I came away from this experience feeling very invigorated and even more enthusiastic about my training from this point on. There was such a high level of motivation and spirit in a room filled with so many like minded individuals striving to the best of their abilities, that it would have been difficult not to absorb it. I can’t wait to get back to my home dojo and training buddies (who I missed terribly during my holiday) this week and share!