I first trained with Hazard Sensei some fourteen years ago, and as a wee lad, I remember being in absolute awe of his fantastic technical skill and ability to motivate. Now, years later, although having trained many times in between, I have the benefit of experience to completely appreciate the brilliance of his karate.
Upon arriving at the venue, Emma and I were kindly welcomed by Hazard Sensei and Phipps Sensei, and while being very excited, we were feeling stiff and tight from the drive so were unsure of how our technique would be. With a good long warm up though, we soon felt alive and ready for what we knew would be a brilliant day of karate.
The day was going to be broken down into three classes: Beginners, Advanced and finally a kata session dealing with Gankaku at the request of Sensei Phipps. Although daunting, we decided to train on all three courses and fully take everything we could from Sensei's teaching.
The beginner's class dealt firstly with a kizami-tsuki - gyaku-tsuki combination, then a second combination using age-uke - same hand gedan barai - gyaku-tsuki, using a transition from zenkutsu-dachi to kokutsu-dachi and back to zenkutsu-dachi. Although very basic, Hazard sensei made me feel like an amateur as I realised how little I knew about anything. These two combinations were then put together in partner work, where we all tried to make the transition between stances as smooth and effortless as possible. Instead, I felt as rusty as an old motor engine, with my body refusing to do what I wanted it to (I get days like that!!!).
Within the class, Sensei taught us neat little ways to sharpen our punches, with training exercises for hikite being practiced to make us stronger and faster. I'm not sure if it was the excellence of his exercises, or his ability to motivate, but I most definitely felt so much stronger and sharper after his advice.
The beginner's class concluded with training in kicks, primarily mae geri, with attention paid to the difference between breathing whilst kicking and whilst punching. Very interesting indeed, and provided much food for thought.
The advanced class was exactly that. Sensei Hazard further developed many of the principles explored in the beginner's class, with closer attention being paid to kicks, this time mawashi-geri and yoko-geri-kekomi. Using a three-parner group set up, Sensei taught us brilliant ways of developing the principles of the kicks, and I for one most definitely felt an improved ability in my legs.
Using the combination mae-geri - mawashi-geri - yoko-geri, Sensei taught us techniques to control our opponent and how to dominate your opponent to the
point where you can dictate his responses. This truly fascinated me, and every so often I would look over at Emma and we would smile at one another as if to say 'Wow - that was impressive'. Everyone in the room could feel the enthusiasm of Sensei, and that undoubtedly rubbed off on everyone!
My favourite class of the day was the final session where Sensei taught Gankaku. Sensei broke the kata down excellently into digestible sections, so even the slowest of us (me) could keep up, and he taught segments at a time, enabling us to fully absorb the masses of information that he was supplying. Punctuated throughout the teaching of the kata, he both demonstrated and allowed us to practice many of his very inventful applications, although sadly because of the limitations of time, we couldn't have a go of every application. Nonetheless, Sensei's demonstrations fully illustrated the effectiveness of the techniques, and judging by the expression on his assistant's face, who (fair-play) took the techniques with spirit, I could more than see that the techniques work quite nicely.
Again, Sensei added his own personal magic to the teaching, which motivated all of us, and as I listened to him speak about the attitude required for the performance of kata, I was struck by an odd sense of nostalgia, remembering how inspired I was all those years ago.The day was amazing, and both Emma and myself left feeling full of energy, although feeling absolutely drained. When I got home, I managed to make seven and a half pages of notes from the day, and it took me many days to let his teachings completely sink in. I look forward to training with him again very soon!