THE SHOTOKAN WAY
The 1st Welsh Open Course 2009
With Paul Herbert & Shaun Banfield
February 7th 2009 saw The Shotokan Way hosting the first ever TSW Welsh Open Course. This was a big step for us, but a rational one. At TSW we believe in karate, pure and simple. We believe in good quality training, and in spreading the ethos of the eternal student, and so it seemed fitting that one way we help represent this belief was to host good quality courses as often as we can. And this first TSW course has placed us in good stead.
When we were planning the course there was no doubt in our minds who Shaun should teach alongside, and who should be one of the first karateka to represent TSW. Paul Herbert was one of the first people that we cemented a friendship with when the site first published, and so it seemed perfectly fitting that Shaun teach alongside someone that we not only consider to be a superb karateka, and excellent teacher but also a very close friend. Paul is a fantastic karateka and personifies the idea of the eternal student, and so was the perfect choice to represent our idea of what karate should be, for the first TSW Open Welsh Course.
Only people with luck as bad as ours could have planned the first ever TSW open course on a weekend where the majority of Britain was at a standstill, covered in a white sheet of snowfall. Typical, but we soldiered on. We had messages of regret from a few people hoping to make the course who were stranded by the snow, but lots of people powered through to make the course a success. Those who weren’t stopped by the snow included many dedicated students from Wales, and two particularly dedicated karateka all the way from the Isle of Wight, who’s sheer determination to make the course saw them catching a ferry at 4am that morning!
The first session of the course was taught by Shaun Banfield, and focused on using the centre of the body to generate force and highlighted how the centre of the body must be the one of the most important driving sources of power in karate.
Shaun stressed the fact that moving from the center is different from moving from the hips. He stated “You can move from the center without moving from the hips, and vice versa, but in order to generate maximum power you need to use both effectively.”
Shaun explained that as a result of having a small build, he needs to effectively use his center to fully project as much mass into the target as possible in order to generate as much energy and power as a larger built person would. This highlighted the need for good control of the center of the body and the effects of using the center in karate.
Shaun built up his session using a series of smaller combinations designed to increase awareness and use of the center. These combinations were completed in pairs to develop a final combination that relied upon not only moving the centre forward, but up and down also, depending on the movement required, to effectively generate enough power to incapacitate an opponent.
The level of planning completed for this session became obvious as each task in the session was a logical step forward, and all steps relied on building upon the previous task to effectively work through the provided combination. The final combination brought together all of the stressed points of the session. Students had to draw upon the earlier exercises and what they took from them in order to perform the final exercise to a high standard.
Shaun gave fantastic demonstrations of what he was expecting of the students, and seeing exactly what he wanted from them, helped to no end in inspiring students to work at following what he was asking for and developing as much power as possible. His demonstrations were impressively powerful, and many people commented that he hits hard and fast, employing all of his body to be as destructive as possible.
At the end of the session, Shaun then brought students back to their lines to complete the combination in its basic form, to highlight the developments in comparison to how the students performed the basics at the beginning of the session. All students were more aware of their center, and particularly the senior grades were generating more power than before.
Shaun thoroughly enjoyed teaching the course and said that “Teaching is always more fun when people are enthusiastic, and this lot had enthusiasm from the off, and kept it. They were great.”
Students left the first session full of enthusiasm, and were buzzed up from the encouragement given by Shaun and were eagerly awaiting the second session.
Given 15 minutes to eat a Chomp and get some fluids, students spoke positively about the first session, and some cornered Shaun for further exercises to generate use of the center, and to aid in power production.
The second session was taught by Paul Herbert, and the main focus was on developing timing and distance to develop effective kumite skills.
Paul used a number of kumite drills to encourage students to use good timing, and to pay particular attention to good distance, to move as quickly to a target as possible. He provided short, sharp tasks that kept everyone full of energy, and kept the pace of the class swift.
Once a number of kumite drills had been employed Paul developed the same principles from each drill and applied them to a more realistic fighting arena, focusing more on targeting and power than on speed and point-scoring.
Everyone commented on their ability to move sharper after this session, and the final line training exercises really reinforced what the class had been aiming for, giving students the opportunity to try the skills they had developed in a less structured, less basic form. It was a very effective way to test the learning of the students, and to allow the combinations to be used in a more high energy situation.
Paul made the progression from kumite drills to close quartered conflict seem natural, and he emphasised the fact that the same principles work in both types of fighting. He was encouraging and approachable, and this meant that students were eager to try their best to develop the skills he was focusing on, trying hard to follow his example.
Paul stressed the need for attention to detail when completing kumite drills. He explained that karateka need to pay attention to where the fists are pointing when in kamae, when preparing to make a move. He also placed much emphasis on loading the base leg and using it to drive forward, for greater precision and speed when facing an opponent.
One of the main observations of Paul was that he was large in stature, but moved incredibly quickly, a dangerous combination. Seeing demonstrations such as Paul’s encouraged students and inspired them to aim to move as quickly and sharply as Paul himself, and his excellent demonstrations were integral in pushing the pace and standard of the session forward.
Shaun and Paul are very different, but also very similar in many ways, and they both fed off each other, and taught classes that perfectly complimented the other. The content was very different, but many theories and ideas crossed over.
Even with the snow the level of enthusiasm was unrelenting, and those who trained created an atmosphere of high energy and positivity. Everyone trained hard in both sessions and gave their all to both instructors, meaning that the standard of karate was very high, and everyone had a positive experience training on the course.
During the post-course meal, many people commented on how surprised they were that this course hadn’t happened sooner, and now, seeing what an incredible event it was I agree, and so with that in mind, we say thank you to everyone involved. To Shaun and Paul for teaching such fantastic sessions, to everyone from Wales for attending, to the guys from the Isle of Wight for battling the snow and high seas, to Joanna, for after dinner entertainment, and to everyone who supported the course with such unrelenting enthusiasm and positivity.
As the next step forward for TSW, this course was exactly what we hoped it would be. It was an example of excellent quality of tuition, it was full of gusto, and full of committed, sincere karateka who represent exactly the kind of karateka we at TSW wish to stand for. Karateka who are not afraid to travel, put on their gis and train hard.
(See More Photos Below)