3, 2, 1, CONTACT!
Every year in October, my dojo hosts the annual IOGKA Gasshuku in Georgia. This is a 3-day weekend full of training, learning, sharing, laughter, camaraderie, catching up with old friends, and making new friends too. Although this is our annual National Training Camp – our big event for the year – we open this gasshuku to all traditional Okinawan and Japanese martial arts practitioners, and every year, we grow a little more, and expose the old training methods to new attendees.
Many of our friends comes back year after year not only for the training, but for the ‘family reunion’. In fact, I would venture to say that our small group bonds closer with each passing year because of our family atmosphere during the entire weekend. That is, we are all friends on and off the training floor, there is no ego, no cliques, and no ‘kids table’ either. We all train together, and everyone is expected to participate and give 100% effort while training, no spectators, no judging, no critiquing, just training.
While we do have a fast paced training schedule with more than a dozen different training segments, our mission is for all that attend and train with us to be able to sufficiently retain at least a little of what is taught. The methods employed are quite simple; yes, we may learn new kata or even different versions of a familiar kata, but what really makes those lessons stick? Contact!
Repetitive and progressive contact in the form of bunkai, tuite, structural principles and constant partner drills. What comes with this type of training? Muscle memory, for most learners. Why? I’ll use myself for an example. I can practice with my teacher, learn kata with him standing beside me, and record step by step, detailed notes for everything that I learn. And all of this is useful, however, nothing sticks with me quite like contact.
- If I see it, I may recall it.
- If I do it, I’ll probably remember it – as long as I keep practicing consistently.
- If I FEEL it, then it’s all mine, and I’ll have it forever.
But that’s just me, I’m a physical learner, and physical learning often comes with growing pains; that is- bumps, bruises, the occasional bloodshed, joints and nerves on fire from being twisted and turned, etc. These ‘growing pains’ are the direct result of application based training, and this type of active contact training will teach us more than any theoretical practice can ever hope to achieve. We have all been to those gasshuku, seminars, camps, workshops, etc. where the featured instructor(s) will teach a kata or two, and then teach the bunkai to everyone via one uke (willing partner) as a demonstrator. It all looks great, (and somewhat choreographed) but in the back of your mind, you can’t help but wonder if it really works against an unwilling opponent. And it’s ok to be skeptical regarding personal protection and defense; in fact, I fully expect to be challenged when teaching something new or different to students, peers, or other instructors. This keeps everyone honest. My teacher has a great way to address those that are respectufully curious or skeptical; when asked a certain detail or question (the ‘what if’s’) Takamiyagi Sensei simply responds: “Come, you try”. This is followed immediately by a quick physical (and sometimes painful) lesson that leaves no further doubt or questions in the mind of the inquirer.
At our gasshuku, and all of our events throughout the year, the Instructors work with everyone in attendance regardless of rank; we rotate, and move around, and spend time working with each attendee to ensure they are understanding the content that is taught. As instructors, we have an obligation to be on the floor with those that we are teaching, and we have the obligation to lead by example.
Ordinarily, I don’t include photos with my articles, but this time will be an exception; I am including a photo gallery of our most recent gasshuku in Columbus, Georgia. Feel free to take a look at all the photos, and notice the intensity, the focus, the laughter, the friendship that comes with the joy and pain of learning through old-fashioned contact!
For more information on our Annual Gasshuku, click on the gasshuku tab on this website, or check out http://www.iogka.wordpress.com or check out the IOGKA facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/IOGKA-Kokusai-Okinawa-Goshukan-Karate-Renmei-1510085279267445/