Being something of a nomad recently has definitely had its’ benefits. It has meant that Shaun and I have had a real reason to travel all over the UK to train with some truly fantastic karate-ka, one of whom – I’m sure you’ll agree – is Sensei Dave Hazard.
We were invited to train on a two-day course being hosted by Ady Gray and his Byakko association, in Ripon, North Yorkshire, and in our eager states, not even the 6 hour drive was enough to get us down. That was, of course, until that 6 hour drive turned into a seven and a half hour drive thanks to traffic and speed restrictions most of the way! It really was lucky we had decided to travel up the day before the first session, to sample Yorkshire life. We arrived barely in time to see the Christmas lights being switched on in the square and had an early night.
The first course with Sensei Hazard was focused on shuto-uke and transitions in kokutsu-dachi. This is something that a lot of karate-ka take for granted, making the assumption that because they can get from A to B that they are fine. There is, as Sensei Hazard spent 90 minutes illustrating, so much more to it than simply moving. We spent the session working hard to increase and maintain the transition from A to B to C and everything in between. Sensei Hazard spent time teaching us two different types of shuto-uke and their uses, and by the end of the second session my understanding and my performance of shuto-uke had improved dramatically.
The second session of the day taught kumite, but not just any kumite. Sensei Hazard taught us methods to improve our fighting skill, but not just on one level. He taught ways of making your fighting more functional, using what we know to make our kumite far more real. One exercise that I will be using involved us using choku-tsuki jodan to improve our understanding and use of relaxation and contraction and the minute timing needed to make this work perfectly to our advantage. All in all an incredibly useful day!
Shaun and I were prepared for a very boring evening watching X Factor in the hotel, but Ady Gray and his members were very welcoming, and we were invited to spend the evening with them and Sensei having something to eat. We went to a lovely Chinese restaurant and then commandeered the lounge in our hotel, spending the evening getting to know some great people and hearing some great tales, although there is a possibility that Shaun and I seriously depressed our new found friends with some lengthy tales of our adventures living in ‘The flat that Jack built’! (By the way, the doors have handles now!)
Day two began with some aching but determined bodies migrating not too far to Ady Gray’s dojo for two kata sessions with Sensei Hazard.
One thing that Shaun and I have been waiting with baited breath for is a session on Hangetsu led by Sensei Hazard and to our delight that is what was announced for the first session of the day.
Hangetsu is a kata that has always fascinated me and to be taught its’ intricacies by Hazard Sensei was a fantastic experience. According to Sensei Hazard this is a great kata to use to energise yourself, and after performing it from beginning to end – having been taught the correct use of breathing, tension, stance and dynamics – I felt awake, even though it had been a late night the previous evening, and even with the dreaded anticipation of a seven hour drive to get home!
The second session was to deal with Bassai Dai, and I’ll say now, it’s a good job Hangetsu invigorated me, because I needed all the energy I could get for what turned out to be an exhausting but incredibly rewarding session on a powerful, dynamic kata.
In our travels it has become clear to me that Bassai Dai is one kata that is taught so differently from association to association, so of course there were things that Shaun and I were doing differently, but Sensei Hazard gave reasons for every possible way of performing the kata, and then applied this knowledge. Shaun and I have the aim of performing our karate as close to Sensei Hazard’s as possible, giving us a huge understanding into the workings of karate, and so now, we have two more kata we can perform ‘the Hazard way’!
With all the varied courses that Shaun and I have attended, people quite often ask us which sessions really stand out. It was always hard to answer this question, having experienced so many karate-altering ideas, but now I can answer that question quite easily. The session on Hangetsu taught me so much, I couldn’t even take it in. Shaun and I sat in the comfort of our living room (leaking window and all) and wrote page after page of notes, determined between the two of us to put in writing everything we were taught, but I’m positive there was just so much knowledge from Sensei Hazard that we missed much more than we actually wrote down.
Sensei Hazard is praised as being one of the best technicians and one of the best teachers, and only if you train with him, being drowned in his knowledge will you ever truly appreciate his talent. He is a fantastic teacher. I want to avoid using the word instructor, because that doesn’t do him justice, he doesn’t simply instruct, he teaches, and they are two very different things.
Shaun and I want to say a massive thank you to Ady Gray and his members for making us feel so welcome, and for inviting us to spend time with you all. It’s the best thing in the world, being made to feel welcome into a group that is so much like a family. We also want to say thanks to everyone who offered to pick us up from the airport next time we come up to train in Yorkshire, and lastly we want to say thank you to Sensei Hazard for allowing us to train here there and everywhere with him. We are very grateful.