By Michael Clarke
By Garry Lever
By Barrett & Lever
By Mark Bishop
The Shinken Dojo 真 剣 道 場
|Ryusyokai Okinawa Goju Ryu Karate 琉 翔 会 沖 縄 空 手
Ilfracombe - North Devon - England 英 国
Web Sites of Interest
on ALL Writings &
contained within this
|"Is this really what people think Karate training is all about ? "
There will be many Karate Ka out there who are now setting out their New Year resolutions, training goals, regimes and
plans. Already in fact, I have had people mentioning theirs to me, wrongly but admittedly, at times I do quietly smile to myself
and think; So it's another year that you are going to waste in Karate then?
"The hard working Karate Student with diligence and a sincere character who seeks out quality guidance, will
achieve more benefits from studying true Karate in as little as 3 years, more so than the average Karate Student will
achieve in a life time" Glyn Jones
I do admire people for being forward thinking and planning out their Karate, in many ways this truly is the key, the same for
showing true effort, commitment and sacrifice. But, what I do not get is Karate Ka with many years experience, who year after
year ride along on the wave of the art and constantly continue to follow a poor path.
Whilst in Okinawa just over a year ago, we had an evening off from our scheduled training sessions. So a few guys
arranged to meet up at the Dojo to share some training together. The training being taken by the exceptional Paul
Babladelis Sensei 8th Dan. Anyway, the session centred around working on and from our Karate base, and I for one learned
lots. During this very training session Babladelis Sensei came out with this so important statement that many fail to
understand, or words to this effect according to my training notes;
"Karate students often see the Okinawan Karate Sensei, and then they try to follow them, but what they often fail to
see, is the 30 years of quality training and understanding that they have behind them" Paul Babladelis Sensei
Regular on line talk, constantly watching and learning from video footage, attending the latest in flavour monthly seminars,
networking, and being a member of a poor school or club. All of these are no real basis for studying the Martial Arts, be it
Karate, Judo or whatever. And don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
Years ago ALL exponents of the martial arts worked off a good firm solid base. The skills, the clever techniques, or so called
tricks of the trade all come off and after this base. All the convincing talk, the fancy ground work moves or bunkai
applications, will never make you in to a good Karate Ka, and you will gain very little benefits if anything from the art if this is
your basis. What is intriguing though is that this losing sight of base is more often than not associated with so called Karate
Ka, NOT Judo Ka, Western Boxers, Thai Boxers or Brazillian Ju Jitsu people, but yes Karate Ka! I have been speaking to
Brian Hinchliffe Sensei recently on this very subject, an exponent whose whole Karate is about working from a good solid
In reality and foremost, Karate is done through regular hard practise on the Dojo floor, in a good Dojo at that, under a
teacher who is both honest to the art, trains regularly themselves, whilst having a real deep understanding of the art. My
father always used to say that a persons worth in Budo should be proven on the mat, (in Judo) not in the changing room with
talk… Now at times it's often about what so called big names one has trained under, or the amount of seminars attended.
One of my Sensei said this to me once, and I never realised its true bearing at the time. “When people openly speak about
how often that they train, halve it, and then halve it again, and this will probably be the truer answer”.
Another of my Sensei said this to me too "I can tell the understanding and worth of any Karate Ka within a few minutes
of seeing them in a Gi, it's all seen in their Karate base".
All true, quality, authentic, and honest exponents of Karate, regardless of style practised, will have a firm solid quality
grounding in their chosen way. So there lies the answer! To the point that their whole Karate is constantly worked from this
base, as without this base they/you have nothing. If you name or witness any of the highly thought of Japanese or
Okinawan exponents of Karate, you will find this to be true. These Sensei will be constantly working to improve on, fully
understand and do their base style well, with everything else you see from them as in drills or applications being secondary.
In Senaha Sensei's Ryusyokan Dojo, every training session commences with Fukyu Kata, all of the Kata of Goju Ryu,
together with fundamental drills, Ippon Kumite, Kote Kite, Hojo Undo. All for good reason too, as then and only then, do
member Karate Ka work on other aspects of the Art. The same reason that Sensei does not allow those below the standing
of Sandan to open their own Dojo, they just don't have the fundamental understanding of the base.
Any thoughts and ideas for improving your Karate in the New Year are best spent in time on your Karate base, be it
posturing, Hojo Undo or whatever. So do yourself and your Karate a big favour and set about studying and training in
Karate from its base, as this is how the art has been passed on effectively and with many benefits inherent through the
generations on both Okinawa and in Japan.
(Sunday 28th December 2014)
"The Benefits of Karate are in its Base"
I am going to dedicate my first blog post of 2015 to my Teacher / Sensei, Shigetoshi Senaha Sensei, and leave you all to
read and reflect on a few of his words of guidance on Okinawan Karate.
I have experienced the development of Okinawan Karate for the last fifty years. Presently, the nature of Okinawan
karate is obscured by sport karate, school karate, and the styles presented on the mainland Japan.
Chojun Miyagi Sensei taught Sanchin and Tensho Katas with heavy breathing to beginners, many though have
misinterpreted this and breath way to heavy, to exert excessive strain is absolutely forbidden and very dangerous.
We don't over emphasize or concentrate on grabbing the opponent, as if you do, you will end up being in an equal
position to your opponent, it is much better to push him away, parry, or receive, then go in with a strike.
These days, it would seem that no mind is paid to social obligation or honour and there is little real depth or
personality to the craft (Karate, Ti) anymore, such a sad time. The teacher and the student relates to each other on
the basis of loyalty, honour and respect.
It is time that the spirit and technique of Okinawan karate should be propagated, a time that the next generation
should inherit this spirit and technique. Our successors in Karate can find guidance from learning about the path
our ancestors walked.
The present state of karate is that kata are carried out step by step, and the techniques hidden within are not
known. Instead, all that is cared about is a pretty kata, speed, and competitive vigour.
Karate is not about winning, it's about not losing.
In many ways Chojun Miyagi Sensei either hid and disguised a lot of the dangerous techniques that are to be found
within the Kata, or he made them safer.
Karate is all circles and rotations.
Make the techniques do the work, especially so when striking, you should flow with speed, be relaxed, but with the
Wishing you All a Happy & Healthy New Year !
(Friday 2nd January 2015)
|Receiving guidance from
Senaha Sensei on the
Rokushaku Bo (6 foot Staff),
one afternoon in the Summer
"Words of Guidance from Senaha Sensei"
To keep their resident art living, the Sensei of Okinawan Karate always had a thorough and testing transmission process in
place, all so that they could continue to pass on their knowledge and perceived understanding of Karate effectively to the
next generation. There was though and always will be changes, and there will also be innovation too, as this is imminent.
The fundamental aim of an authentic Karate Sensei though, was and is twofold; giving something back to others and to the
art that has given them so many lifelong benefits themselves - whilst also aiming to preserve by preventing crucial elements
and the true basis or characteristics of Karate from becoming totally distorted, undiluted or lost forever. Due to this heavy
responsibility, sincere exponents of Karate then have the right to be selective in who they wish to teach or pass their Karate
knowledge on to, as teaching anyone and everyone can certainly be detrimental to the art.
So what is a genuine, dedicated, sincere and serious student of Karate? You may ask... The answer is quite simple really:
This week I've trained and practised my Karate, be it alone in a small spare room, out in the freezing cold elements of a
public park hut, in my half finished home dojo, together with alongside a few other in a gym hall. Other serious and genuine
Karate Ka and students of good character will regularly and almost daily be doing something similar or the same thing, if
they are not, then they are not authentic or serious Karate Ka, period!
During both 2012 and 2013 I spent most of my time on the road working away from home, so I would always try and befriend
a local Dojo to use for private training. One such Dojo that both myself and a former Karate student would visit regularly was
a great little Traditional Wado Ryu Karate Dojo. We would often firstly sit and watch a set lesson, then afterwards quietly set
about our own personal training at the rear of the Dojo floor. As a Karate Ka it is always quite surprising how much one can
actually learn from just watching and listening to a Karate Sensei with true understanding, (even if I always get itchy feet to
get my Gi on and participate), and the sessions I witnessed here were no exception, with Roger Vickerman Sensei being a
first rate, excellent and very knowledgeable Karate Ka, who I always learned lots from.
There were two brothers and students of this Dojo who always caught my eye and never failed to impress me, both with their
attitude and their understanding of Karate technically. Not because of their grade or age, because at brown belt and being
in their late teens, there were many others of higher standing training around them. They just had it, the dedication, the
sincerity, the effort that was always shown made them a credit to their Sensei and the art of Karate. I vividly remember
saying to my student once as we watched; "If you want to learn how to study Karate correctly, don't just watch the
Sensei, keep watching and learning from those guys". Just watch them closely! "They give it all when others just
give enough, they focus on the teachings of their Sensei when the minds of others are just wandering, their Dojo
etiquette is sincere, whilst others go through the motions". They were and are true students of Karate. I also remember
saying " I wish they were students of mine as students like these are very rare these days, their Sensei are very
lucky". These are words that I can't ever recall saying before, and I whole heartedly meant them too...
I vaguely remember it being mentioned briefly in conversation that one of these young guys who was only 18 years of age
had got a heart problem, and Karate training had helped to make him stronger. The words being that brief in fact that I
remember replying, "well it certainly hasn't affected his Karate". then I thought no more of it.... A few months ago I was
very sad to hear that this young guy had unexpectedly taken a turn for the worse and had become very poorly indeed, (out
of respect I will keep his name private). On Christmas eve 2014 he received a heart transplant in the hope that this would
save his life and improve his health, but sadly it was not to be, and he passed way peacefully a few days later, a day that
Karate lost a truly dedicated student of Karate.
I would like to pass on my sincere and deepest condolences to his family, his training partner and brother, his Sensei Roger
Vickerman and Dave Parry, and all at his Karate Dojo. Rest in peace young man as few Karate students of your age have
ever impressed me more.
(Tuesday 13th January 2015)
"A True Student of Karate"
There are many varying opinions of what True, Real, or Authentic Karate is. These being terms that I also use often whilst
writing here and teaching. In many ways I believe that these terms are comprised of two simple ingredients. Surprisingly
though, many Karate Ka either fail to see the wood from the trees, or dither around doing or looking for easier things, or
maybe making excuses and changes to suit. Is it not better to put the hard work in and keep things uncomplicated by using
the tried and tested fundamental basis of what Karate was built from and stands for?
Be you practise Okinawan Karate, Japanese Karate, Shotokan, Goju Ryu, etc, it does not really matter. Good Karate is
The first ingredient is the solo daily/regular walk up the garden path to the training area that one calls a Dojo, the changing in
to the training wear, the bowing to the Shomen and to the pictures of ones teacher who is in the Dojo looking over in spirit,
the hard personal challenge of Karate practise that then takes place without any ego, interference or outside
distractions……. There after it’s a final bow and a return journey down the very same path as one goes about their daily life.
The very next day or so the same journey is walked again.
The second ingredient is the substance or basis behind the training that takes place in the Dojo. Is it of quality and
understanding with an heritage that can be traced back in time to the people of Okinawa, or maybe later on Japan. Or has all
that one trains in and practises been distorted, misinterpreted, misrepresented, or made just up over later years by those
who have no real understanding or years of in Dojo training, or depth to the craft or art?
True Karate is about regular challenging, quality in-depth training, that was propagated by the peaceful people of Okinawa,
but so many forget these days. It is raw and it is pure, it should be about being combat effective in times of need, whilst being
good for both calming the mind and improving the health of the body through continued practise. True Karate is not
complicated or about excuses, it is individuals who make it so, it has no frills or anything fancy to offer, it is not about cups or
gaining higher status, or even lowering the standards for personal gain and satisfaction.
The benefits inherent in practising True Karate, is freely but not easily available to anyone who is sincere and puts the effort
and hard work in to seek them out. Oh and... Has the ability to see through all the fancy offers, talk and frills, or quick fix
distorted teachings that are now being offered by so many with the attached name of Karate.
(Thursday 29th January 2015)
"True, Real, Authentic Karate"
The speed of movement and the quickness of learning is often associated with Karate and the Martial Arts. Have you seen
how quick this guy can move? You need to move or progress at a quicker pace? How long will it take me to achieve my
black belt? When will I learn this kata or training drill? What is of most importance, speed or power?
The thing is, the whole structure and basis of Karate is about taking things slowly, being patient, and being in it for the long
term, not the short term. When studying anything of value there is usually very little to be gained by thinking in terms of
speed or quick and fast results, even though in a modern and fast world these can be difficult concepts to comprehend.
Surprisingly though, many people think otherwise and believe that speed and fast results are the key to success. With true
Karate, thinking in this way will most certainly be to the detriment of the students understanding, and will ultimately lead to
their down fall, or result in them having a poor training basis. We have all seen Dan grades with many years of training behind
them, who still can't do the most fundamental of Karate techniques or stances even remotely correct, the reason being is that
they have tried to be the hare not the tortoise. Repetition and taking things slowly over time generally produces better results
and stores things in the mind. There is no substitute for time or experience as the saying goes.
I do accept that when it comes to fighting, you do need to learn to be able to protect yourself quickly, as in yesterday,
especially so if you acquaint some of the not so nice places or people of this world. Of course then it is no good if it takes you
50 years to learn how to fight and understand a system. But for most, this necessity needs to be put to one side, as with
quality in-depth instruction progress will come soon enough. Oh and.... Without quality instruction, learning or guidance,
progress or effectiveness will probably never come or be achieved anyway regardless of how quick you learn.
Karate students who take things slowly whilst training diligently and regularly, on a recipe of what they need and not what they
want, with no set time scales in mind, will progress further and acquire a better and deeper understanding of Karate and what
it has to offer, than those whose aim it is to progress at a fast pace. There will be no depth to the craft, as Senaha Sensei so
wisely puts it...
One of the most difficult concepts to get over to students when teaching is the understanding of speed, and no rush to their
training. This may seem strange, but I am constantly telling students to slow down! do not speed up! The reason being is that
for improvement, understanding and the analyzing of techniques and training drills, you must slow down. Speed and power,
just like timing, and so many other factors, will come naturally later with time through the progression process of regular
training and experience. Many fail to realise that speed is of little or no use at all if backed up by techniques that are
executed poorly, or have no in fight basis as they will be destined to fail.
Here is an everyday life analogy on the learning process and speed in motion;
If you are learning to lay bricks as a brick layer, you start off slowly and correctly, you practise and you practise some more
until suddenly you are building perfectly straight walls that are clean, have even joins, whilst being level. All of this is your sole
aim not speed. Once, and only once this has been achieved, you then start to attempt more complex designs. As for speed,
this will come naturally with time, because if you start going to quick to soon the walls will be all over the place and a mess, just
like those who do poor Karate, basically and sadly it's a mess.... One must never lose sight of the fundamental principles and
aims, which is good practises and technique. This will result in the building of straight, clean, even jointed and level brick
walls. At the same time who would you prefer to build your new home, the young guy fresh out of college who is full of
confidence, with a certificate or two as credence displayed for all to see, or the old guy who has quietly been in the trade all
his life without a piece of paper to his name?
I could go on forever talking about speed in training, motion, and in the fight. But, I am writing on this elsewhere so for now I
will leave you with this to get people thinking... The starting moves to the Goju Ryu Kata's "Saneryu -Sesan -Sanchin"... Same
Moves! However, they are normally taught with slightly different speeds and feels about them. Ask yourself why this is?
Training slowly at times has deep meaning and valued purpose, it most certainly does not equate to being soft or weak...
(Monday 9th February 2014)
"The Tortoise & the Hare"
Due to our Dojo web site and blog posts I do receive a fair share of e mails, mainly from people resident over here in England.
Most of the time they are sincere enquiries asking if I know of or if I can recommend an authentic Karate Dojo for them to join.
More often than not I am of little help, with distance to travel or the unwillingness to make the sacrifices required normally
being the reasons. So... Apart from offering a little friendly advice, I wish them well and hope that they find what they are
In many respects you only have to browse through the internet to see why people ask. Yes Karate these days is a mine field
!!! There is a thought of mind that the internet will give us the answer to almost anything, and in many ways it can and will.
However, as far as Karate goes the internet or www. can offer us many things, from intriguing reading material, contacts, and
much open discussion or talk relating to Karate, including vast amounts of video footage for us to witness too. But, regardless
of all of this being readily available... None of this can, or ever will equate to true, real hands on Karate training, or receiving
quality guidance in the Art of Karate from a Sensei of value, the same in being part of a good Karate Dojo of worth on a daily
"Discovering a true Karate Sensei of worth is like finding a diamond on a beach full of sand" An Old Okinawan Saying.
The thing is, if you genuinely wish to receive quality guidance in, and practise a Karate that has real depth to the craft. Or
your aim is to be a highly effective exponent of the art, or maybe you're just wishing to reap in the many lifelong benefits, like
improved health, that true Karate has to offer. You really do need to disregard all the clever words, hype, and fancy talk that
so many are taken in by or cling to, especially on the internet, whilst refusing to accept what is offered to you so easily, I'd say
cheaply but that's not always the case... Anything of worth or true value in life won't come easily, and of course with Karate
things are no different.
Here is a little help and friendly advice of my own to those of you who may need it or find it interesting reading...
Firstly; you are going to have to do your research and put the hard work in to discover or seek out a real Sensei and/or a
Karate Dojo of worth. This is going to be extremely difficult and a test in itself for anyone, but of vital importance! In reality,
without doing this you will be off to a none starter, or your Karate will always lack substance and deep meaning. A big problem
here is knowing what to look for, and where to look, especially so if you lack experience or understanding, as one mans good
Sensei or Karate teacher, is another mans Charlatan.. Regardless, you really do need to do your home work and seek out
Secondly; approach the Sensei or Dojo/s respectfully and politely, not with a I have done this and I have done that attitude.
Always show sincerity and be of good character, whilst doing all you can to gain acceptance, show patience and be totally
honest. Always be quiet not loud. You will probably need to prove that you are truly worthy of the Sensei's valuable time and
effort. At the end of the day the Sensei will be taking you on as a student and guiding you in the art, usually for little benefit or
no gain to himself, this is where many students go so wrong, or get way ahead of themselves especially after achieving levels
like Shodan. If you already happen to be a practising Martial Artists or Karate Ka who is seeking out a Sensei of worth, then
throw away the ego, empty your cup, and remember the theory of the beginners mind.
Thirdly; personal sacrifice and effort is going to be required. For some strange reason many people tend to think that quality
Karate training is going to be right there on their door step, or it is going to come to them on a plate. You may be lucky I
accept, but generally you won't be, unless you happen to live in Okinawa. If you need to do the 100 mile round journey once
or twice a week, or the 300 mile round journey once a month to experience true Karate, then put the time and effort in as it will
be well worth it. When not with your Sensei all you have to do is practise regularly alone, remember you are not a child who
needs their hand held. Settling for anything less will be just that, watered down Karate even if it is more readily available. I
have also seen many a good Karate student train well for years whilst their Sensei is directly there for them, as soon as he or
she is not and they themselves have to put the effort in, yes they fail the test and fall by the way side. Lastly, Karate is not
about talk, it is about regular training, so do just that because if you you're not training regularly alone, then you're not doing
True Karate training is testing from the off and about overcoming obstacles like laziness and distance, it is not about money.
Also, forget about grades, or clinging on to a respected art, or the name of a Sensei just to inflate the ego.
Most importantly, and like Senaha Sensei says
"The Karate relationship between Sensei and Student is built on loyalty, honour and respect".
(Friday 20th February 2015)
|"Quality Guidance combined with Regular Training
is the Recipe for Good Karate"
The older schools of Karate tend to have numerous training drills and apparatus within their Dojo's, where by the focus is on
conditioning, and generally as a rule there are three reasons for this;
1; gradually conditioning the body over time will allow areas like the stomach, thighs and forearms etc, to withstand varying
degrees of stress, take blows, or any other blunt punishment that will be put upon it in times of need. There are also added
physical or health benefits this training brings along too, as in improved strength and fitness.
(Please note the word benefit here not detriment.)
2; there is also a thinking that comes alongside those reasons listed above, but in many ways they have an
opposite emphasis. This is where body parts like the hands, knuckles, wrists, and shins etc, are conditioned and
strengthened so that they do not crumble on impact, or get injured when striking an aggressor or opponent.
3; a mind set will also be produced through a regularity of such types of training, producing an endurance that teaches the
Karate Ka to dig in deep and not allow oneself to lose, give in, or be defeated. This aspect alone can be a life saver in times
of severe or potentially life threatening situations, regardless of no's 1 or 2. This actually reminds me of sayings by two
present day Okinawan Karate Sensei;
"Karate is not about winning, it's about not losing" Senaha Shigetoshi Sensei
"In real confrontations there is no prize for second place, or a silver medal, coming second can mean death"
Onaga Yoshimitsu Sensei
The human body can withstand some real punishment and recover, a lot more than most people realise, adrenaline is also a
natural fuel that tends to kick in when needed too, which will if the mindset is right allow one to push though pain and injury,
including strikes to the groin. However, the body is also very vulnerable in some areas too, with the over riding of pain
possibly resulting in serious unrepairable damage. Even instant death is possible if certain areas are struck or pierced. So
learning to receive, cover and defend being good practises .. At times there is a fine line between training sensibly whilst
focusing on the benefits inherent, and training stupidly with a high strong possibility of causing oneself serious irreparable
damage. There is a big difference between allowing someone to strike you in certain areas, and having no choice but to
cope and deal with such a strike during battle.
I recently watched the footage that I have put up below, and personally I wasn't impressed, but neither was I shocked by it
either... I simply thought; "Is this really what people think Karate training is all about ?"
(Wednesday 25th February 2015)