ESA Kase-ha Academy Course June 2007

Sunday 3rd June saw the second in series, ESA Academy Training course instructed by Sensei Mike Fedyk 6thDan and hosted at the SKK Judo Club, St Helens.

The course delivered what was promised to be a continuation of the core themes and principles that were established during the first of the series held in April 2007.

My initial course report provided an insight into my personal experiences gained, whilst this and subsequent reports are to focus more on the technical aspects of the training, providing the reader with a diarised account that is designed to help the reader follow the course progression and even if they have missed a session or two, this will not preclude them from joining us on the next. 

Element Practice Method Key Principles
Ten No Kata-Kihon Practise of the basic Ten No Kata combinations including in-line stepping with mawatte (turning).

Starting with four Oi Tsukis (2 chudan + 2 Jodan), followed by four Tatte Shuto Gyaku Tsuki and then followed by the blocking sequence; Uchi Uke, Shuto Uke (chudan), Age Uke, Shuto Barai and Soto Uchicomi (jodan) with each followed with a counter punch.
Initially this exercise was practiced slowly and with total relaxation, concentrating on correct breathing (from the lower abdomen) and timing between the step and delivery of the technique.

As the practice continued additional elements were gradually introduced including zanshin (awareness) and advanced preparation of a kamae (readiness) position, whilst reintroducing the key principles as taught in the first session of establishing a solid connection with the floor by making a rooted stance with the choice being left to the individual to use either zenkutsu or fudo dachi.

The speed of practice was increased with the emphasise placed on achieving the highest personal standard whilst maintaining correct breathing and remaining relaxed throughout the movement until the point of impact when maximum kime (tension) must be applied to both blocks and counter strikes.
Sanchin Kata In direct contrast to the initial exercise Sensei presented the kata Sanchin.

A relatively short kata having only seven sequences, but each is performed with maximum tension.
In order to attain maximum kime it was essential to establish and maintain a rooted stance, whilst utilising and harvesting the triangulation of forces, flowing through the body to the delivery arm and the point of would-be impact.

Practicing efficient breathing proved absolutely essential, as the amount of energy required to remain in a state of tension throughout the seven combinations was hugely demanding on the body’s energy level.

When breathing through the lower abdomen and combined with stomach tension (Hara) it felt like doing 100 sit ups in just a single practise of the kata.
Sanchin Kata with partner Working with a partner, one performed the kata whilst the second assisted by testing the level of focus and kime being generated throughout the body’s triangulation of forces. Offering a resistance to the movement and pressing down on legs, shoulders, arms and abdomen, tested the individual’s degree of attained focus. This also identified both strengths and weaknesses, requiring even greater concentration and emphasis on correct breathing and rooting.
Hangetsu Kata Whilst the kata Sanchin is performed in fudo dachi, the kata Hangetsu derives its name from the prevalent stance.

The key emphasis is again placed on rooting, ensuring a 50/50 weight balance on either leg, but with emphasis on the back leg in order to attain the same degree of connection to the floor as in fudo dachi.
Again the key principle emphasised in training this kata was one of achieving maximum tension and kime, whilst engaging correct breathing techniques and rooting.
Hangetsu plus Sanchin Kata In order to demonstrate the connection and similarities between the two katas, Sensei combined the opening tension sequences of Hangetsu with the whole of Sanchin thereby extending the tension elements. Again breathing, rooting and kime were the fundamental points.

The body’s demand for oxygen was huge and if one missed a breath or failed to maximise a single intake, this would tell on the body’s performance with energy and concentration beginning to wane.
Ten No Kata – Kihon plus Kumite applications Having focused our attentions on attaining a rooted stance whilst generating maximum kime, our attentions were now returned to the opening of the session in order to practise the combination of relaxation and tension with the latter being applied for a split second only at the point of impact (for both blocking and striking).

Whilst adopting the same sequence of combinations in the Ten No Kata, Kihon section this was now applied with a partner.
Key principles included the core theme captured from both sessions one and two seeing the coming together of relaxed movement whilst generating maximum tension upon the point of impact where the energy was triangulated through the body thus harnessing the benefits of a rooted stance and correct breathing.

Sensei Fedyk’s adaptation of the Ten No Kata – Kihon / Kumite is an excellent means for developing the basic kata form, gaining the right balance between physical and mental demands without becoming overly complex at this stage with Sensei then achieving the intended course outcome.
Pad Work Despite hours of rigorous training it is surprising how some students will fail to deliver impact when using their techniques in earnest.

The introduction of pad work to this session was designed to test the balance between relaxation and impact power against resistance whilst gradually developing performances.
Utilising basic tsuki techniques, three distances were used (full, half and short length punching techniques) with the emphasis being placed on generating equal kime and impact power for each punch regardless of distance.

There is clearly a difference in impact power where any of the following key points are overlooked or not fully harnessed and utilised.This final element introduced by Sensei Fedyk was designed to bring the key points of his lesson together in a simple demonstration and to test the individual''s command and application of the five key elements namely;·

Maximum relaxation
Establishing and retaining a rooted stance
Breathing through the lower abdomen
Exerting maximum kime at the point of impact.
Heian Kata Oyo The session concluded with a reminder of the Heian Kata Oyo form, before moving onto the applied sequences four & five (applications one, two and three were taught in April ’07, yet retraced for the benefit of those who missed the first session).

Basic form training was followed with partnering, again designed to enhance the thought process by working with a fellow student whos interpretation of bunkai and physical skills compliment your own.

Factors such as a difference in interpretation, difference in physical abilities or simply an injury or recuperating from one introduces new ideas and applications.
Whilst Sensei Fedyk demonstrated the more favoured applications to the fourth & fifth sequences from Heian Kata Oyo, these were by no means set in stone, as Sensei recognises the importance of individuals developing their own style and strengths in the field of advanced karate.

This clearly encourages students to harness the core principles learnt from this course and to apply them through in their own way through the delivery of a series of innovative techniques, which demonstrates the various skill levels of the course attendees.

My partner was recovering from recent surgery and as such, their reliance on the above principles was even more important.This was proven in the delivery of effective tsuki, elbow and knee strikes, which proved extremely effective.

This example goes to prove that Karateka can train through or around an injury or periods of recovery by adapting their karate whilst still remaining effective.

For academy style training to be delivered here in the UK, which focuses on the core principles as taught by Kase Sensei, whilst gradually setting in place the essential foundations in order to advance is exactly what I have been hoping for.  I am positive this is the way forward for me and those like me who wish to further develop and improve on their karate knowledge and practice.

Even though the training session lasted for three hours and was both physical and mentally demanding, following the short drive home I felt completely reinvigorated and enthusiastic for more.

The course is open to brown belts and above, particularly those with a genuine interest in developing in the academy style of training and, if St Helens is too far for you to travel, then make the offer of a free use dojo and the course could come to you!

For those of us who have attended sessions one and two we have clearly gained from the benefit of Sensei Fedyk’s diligent preparation and for those of you who have missed out, I hope this article will help you to keep pace.


Mike Cowburn