On Saturday 24th September club members travelled to Tisbury, Devon for an association organised kumite course. The normal keen students attended Brenda, Kay, Ben and myself. Needless to say the travelling arrangements and organisation of the trip down there is worthy of a report on its own. To say that Kay was totally responsible for the party eventually arriving late, running around Hungerford playing car spotting and then consequently getting stuck behind a car crash with supporting air ambulance is a little harsh, but factually true!

None of us had previously trained with Sensei Elwyn Hall but I think most of us had at some time seen a selection of his Shotokan Street wise videos. Add to this his achievements as a previous European and World Team Champion, we were all looking forward to a impressive course. We weren’t disappointed!

The first half of the course worked on a range of techniques practise in a kihon format. With the onus being on keeping the heel down of the rear foot and using the resultant equal and opposite force as the foundation of the technique. Partner work was also practised to avoid unnecessary movement of the front leg that telegraphs your intent prior to a rear leg technique. Sensei stressed that Kihon enables us to learn the fundamentals and principles that can be applied to kumite, but that kumite was significantly different.

After a short water break Sensei Hall demonstrated the kumite dynamics involved with a number of techniques. Power from a Gyaku tzuki was increased by the forward shift of the centre of gravity with a twisting of the hips, rather than a static twist. The majority of Sensei’s weight distribution (>75%) was compressed on the rear leg. This compression was then used to catapult the centre of gravity towards the target. To maximise power in the technique the movement should be driven towards the opponent at the same height without dropping the centre of gravity.

This principle was also applied to gazami-tzuki and front leg mawashi-geri techniques. Sensei stressed the differences in a boxers front jab to gazami-tsuki. The karate strike should incorporate the whole body weight behind the technique. Partner work was practise with the emphasis of making distance and delivering a powerful strike to the top of the chest at the union of the collarbones.

Sensei Hall’s impressive acceleration from a static posture was generated by his low centre of gravity and push off of the rear leg. Awesome displays of this were then demonstrated on a couple of the association’s senior instructors, with, I might add the delight of the vast majority of their students (I wonder what ‘divine retribution’ is in Japanese?) One notable example featured a side step to the out side and a counter with a rear leg mawashi geri and step back. This followed immediately with a devastating sweep, or should I say gedan kick with the same leg that floored our association’s chief instructor and caused all observers to wince in unison.

It was interesting to see how Sensei Hall adapted his height, weight distribution and centre of gravity to maximise his techniques. A simple concept that all advanced karate-ka should apply to suit their own bodies instead of getting too constrained by kihon based stances. This follows Fundakoshi’s 17th precept of “Beginners must master low stance and posture, natural body positions are for the advanced.”

Paul Edwards