ESA Kase-ha Academy Course Oct 2007

Sunday 7th October brought the eagerly awaited, third in series, ESA Academy training course instructed by Sensei Mike Fedyk 6th Dan, hosted at the SKK Judo Club, St Helens.  Attending numbers were promising and all were enthusiastic to learn more following the success of session one and two.  

As is customary from Sensei, he had diligently prepared, not only his planning of the course content, but also the timing and precision of its delivery, whilst also giving careful consideration to the needs of the students and their intended learning outcome in order to ensure that maximum benefits were gained.  

The course content proved to be a continuation of the core principles that were established during the first two sessions, building on the solid foundations of Kase Ha Karate.

Element Practice Method Key Principles
Ten No Kata-Kihon Post warm-up with in-line Ten no Kata using Fudo datchi. 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 (tsuki or uke) to the point of contact.

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 and second session of establishing a solid connection with the floor by making a rooted stance and at the point of delivery with the tsuki or uke.

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) was applied
Tsuki (punching) combination Using the stepping combination, Yori Ashi (lunge step) Kizame Tsuki, Kai Ashi (full step) Oi Tsuki and Tsugi Ashi (half step with back leg) Gyaku Tsuki. Whilst this is a commonly used combination, the framework was used to further the principles of generating energy through correct rooting of the stance and application of timing the step with delivery of the technique, whilst continuing the breathing principles from Ten no Kata.

Progression moved from an introductory pace to full throttle with students encouraged to maintain their best form whilst also extending the boundary of their normal abilities.

Variations of the three movement applications were further introduced and applied separately; they were then applied as one combined sequence.
Partner work - attacking, blocking and countering with varying timings and with increasing power Applying the above combinations with a partner. Now adding targeting and control to the above exercise, first using the partner as a passive receiver of the tsuki attacks, then by responding to each attack and then by responding with a block and counter strike.

Sensei moved on to introduce the timing principles of Go No Sen (a response after the attack), Tai No Sen (a response corresponding with the attack) and Sen No Sen (anticipating and reacting before the attack is launched) in order to change the reactive impact on the attacking partner.

Try this exercise for yourself:-

The defender times their backward step slightly before that of their attacker's advance and connects positively with the floor, establishing a strong and rooted stance, also energising an opposite reaction that occurs fractionally before the attacker's tsuki lands.Using the opposing reaction generated from the floor this energy is then transmitted through the defender's body and out through the blocking arm, not as a simple block, but as an attacking movement on the incoming technique.The reaction is remarkably effective for the defender. Not so for the attacker as the generated power was felt to be devastating on the attacking arm, also helping to destabilise the attacker's balance weakening them in time for the delivery of a strong counter strike.

Striking a tensed and toned stomach even with a powerful counter often has a modest effect, but when contacting with even a much lesser blow to an un-tensed body the effect on the recipient can be devastating.

In regards to the application of Sen No Sen, as a former competitor I appreciate the effectiveness of using this method of timing when connected to a perceptive technique in attaining an effective score.

Teaching others how to react to and counterman an attack before the start of its flight is not an easy principle to get across, especially to less experienced students. However, using the teaching methodology and principles adopted by Sensei helped to develop a gradual and purposeful progression which increased the students’ ability and confidence in dealing with incoming attacks despite their speed, strength or commitment.

By the end of this exercise the class was moving faster and more decisively towards their attacker, proving that the practice of traditional karate training techniques can help in the development of competition based karate.
Soete Uke (morote uke) Assisted Blocking. Use of two-handed assisted blocking principles against strong attacks. Partnering someone who was smaller, lighter, younger and more agile than myself proved a challenge to both parties. For me catching my partner required increased leg speed and avoiding telegraphing my intended actions, whilst my partner was forced to increase his blocking capacity by adopting the principles as detailed above.

At times my tactics proved successful, but when introducing the principle of soete (assisted blocking) my partner began to effectively deal with the attacks and delivered such strong returns that I found myself being taken off balance and with such forces being applied the effect on my arms was rapid with Japanese flags appearing after just one or two contacts.

The use of soete uke plus changing the reactive timing as described above proved devastating when dealing with powerful attacks.

Again try the above exercise for yourself only this time using two handed assisted blocks. It is like discovering a whole new source of energy and power base, whilst eradicating your partner's attack despite their strength or agility.
Heian Oyo The session concluded with a continuance of the Heian Oyo, kata form, before moving onto Oyo kumite and the applied sequences six and seven (applications one to five were taught during the previous classes)

Whilst Sensei demonstrated many of the various bunkai possibilities and effective defence and counter principles he left it to the individual to apply their own beliefs and individual skill capabilities in order to develop from within the standard framework.
Training in advanced karate is about pushing the boundaries in both the physical and mental sense by practicing and honing new skills yet harnessing the foundations of the old. Also working with other experienced Karateka draws from the combined experience with the effects then magnified.

Having to rush through a kata or kata bunkai as often occurs on short duration courses often leaves little time for detailed exploration. One of the key benefits derived from teaching kata in sections such as this allows sufficient time to explore and trial numerous possibilities, some of which will work, whilst others need to be modified however, this is again part of the learning process. Further development will come from continued practice back in your own Dojo.

Practicing kata bunkai in this way helps in the development of a wider skills base through broadening the mind and developing further the core principles as learnt on the ESA Academy training courses.

Academy style training delivered here in the UK, is a fantastic opportunity to further enhance your karate skills and despite my 35 years of training, I still find it inspirational that so many valuable lessons can be learnt in a single session, whilst the accumulative effect from having attended all three sessions is prolific.  

There is unmistakable evidence demonstrated by those who have attended the earlier courses and continue to practice that they have truly benefited and improved.  Whilst in those attending for their first time, there was also a marked improvement from the simple adjustments of such as timing, whilst harnessing the energy from adopting a routed stance and adopting correct breathing techniques.

Attending quality training courses such as this is imperative for ones further development for unlike the repetitive style of training which the majority of us endured during our youths, academy style training not only hones the body, but more importantly trains the mind.   

Our founder Steve Cattle Sensei once said that a karate students best attributes are “loyalty and having an open mind”.  I see this as being loyal to ones self in seeking further advancement, whilst maintaining an open mind in the pursuance of a greater understanding. 

ESA Academy training instructed by Sensei Fedyk is available to brown belts and above, particularly those with a genuine interest in developing the core principles of Kase Ha Karate

Mike Cowburn 5th Dan