It is probably my age. In fact I am sure it is. Positive, in fact. They do say that as you get older time seems to speed up and this must be the reason why the previous year shot by and Friday May 19th, 2008 saw a group of Wantage Karate Club members heading down to Devon Cliffs near Exeter for yet another TSKA residential karate course.


Once again the club had a decent number of attendees for this annual event with twelve karateka (along with associated families) turning up at the caravan park for wine, beer (well, lager anyway), gin and singing. Oh yes, and some karate training.


Training started relatively early with a group session on the beach where we practised Wankan (what an excellent start to a course!) for close to an hour. Of course, this was just a taster for the main event which was to be three three hour long training classes at the local sport centre, taught by Senseis Peter Manning, John Eudan, Gary Roberts and Paul Mitchell.


Note to self. I must not drink wine before training. I must notdrink wine before training. I must notdrink wine before training. I must notdrink wine before training. I must notdrink wine before training.


After training, the Wantage crew headed to the bar and began the drinking in earnest whilst watching a Queen tribute band do their thing (I thought they were rather good, though there was some disagreement about this). Their set finished around midnight and we dutifully trotted back to our caravans to sleep in order to be fresh for the morning’s training. Of course, we were far too excited to sleep and thus ended up spending three more hours drinking and singing in the ladies’ caravan (thank you Brenda, Kay and Kerry). Think of it as an extended nightcap. Once more, young Tony played a blinder with his guitar playing, as he likes to point out, two kinds of music (both country and western).


Tony gives it some

Tony on the guitar


Saturday morning dawned bright and early. A couple of hours later we all surfaced, grabbed some sustenance and prepared for some serious karate. As is the norm at the TSKA residential, the karateka were split into three groups, dan grades, brown belts and coloured belts. After a warm up and some basic stretches we were introduced to some kihon waza designed to help finish the warm up and tune our minds to karate. It consisted of groups of four techniques: jodan oi tzuki forwards, turn age uke, returning with age uke towards the back of the dojo, turn soto uke, soto uke forwards, turn uchi uke, returning with uchi uke, turn shuto uke, shuto uke forwards, turn double gedan barai, returning mae geri chudan, turn gedan barai then kamae, mae geri jodan, turn kiba dache, yoko geri kiagi in both directions (to practise both legs of course) then yoko geri kekomi in both directions, turn then mawashi geri back to the rear of the dojo. Once these moves had been completed, each row in turn was required to sprint to the front of the dojo, touch the wall and sprint back, tagging the next karateka.


This technique was practised once slowly and then once fast, after which most of us were ready for a rest, not the start of a karate lesson. The combination was used to hep warm up at the start of each of the three sessions, so we always knew of something to “look forward to”.


Sensei Roberts took the dan grades initially. We practised gyaku-tzuki followed by same-arm Gedan barai and then steping forward gyuku tzuki. We also practised tai sabakai with onus on a straight back when turning and decoupling the turning of the head from the body to avoid becoming giddy. This then progressed onto ushiro-geri as the next technique on the combination. Finally we practised empi strike and block/trap to emphasis leverage principles based on the distance of the arm from the body.





The wantage club prepares to train

Time passed, as it tends to do, and before we knew it the training had finished and the afternoon was upon us. Sadly there was football on the box, and try as I might I could not get most of the club members to see the folly of their ways and eschew the game in favour of a visit to the recently opened Stabucks café. I managed, however, to persuade Kerry to join me in savouring that naughty bean (the persuasion went along the lines of “Kerry, fancy a coffee?” … “yeah, alright”) and we headed off for some caffeine and a natter. We returned bearing perhaps the greatest gift of all for our fellow karateka (coffee) to find the game on TV had finished and everyone had decided to play it for real!



Dave, Kerry and Brenda with the naughty bean



That evening there was some very sad news. Since Tony had mistakenly booked himself to play at a performance (back in Oxfordshire) he had to leave us, taking his guitar with him to make the trek home for the gig leaving us with just alcohol for company. Being the resourceful people that we are we managed to entertain ourselves with said alcohol and a take-out Chinese meal.




Paul, Carolina and Chris on the guitar


Sunday dawned once more and training occurred. To show true spirit and incredible fortitude, Tony joined us for the training, haven driven through the night to return after his gig. True grit!


Sensei Eudan was allocated the dan grades initially and he helped us compare the trajectories of both kekomi & keage, initially from standing and then from a freestyle stance. We moved on to practise ura mawashi geri blockint with tate shuto uke and then counter to attackers back. We also used some basic blocks including the much ignored uchi uke that is unforgiving if timing is wrong. We finished off with some partner work: -attcker- Jodan mawashi followed by uraken and finish gyaku tzuki. -defender- Jodan uchi and nagashi uke to block the first two techniques. – attacker- jodan Oi-tzuki, – defender- slide to outside and counter with gazami-tzuki.


Following on from this, Sensei Manning gave us some bag work – gyaku tzuki, mae geri, kekomi and mawashi geri. It is a lot of fun trying to power the techniques into something solid and gauging the bag holder’s reaction! We then moved on to some advance kicking focused on mae geri, kekomi and mawashi having a common initial stage of a forward knee lift to disguise kick. It was emphasised this should not be taught to beginners as the correct muscle strength should be developed from basics. We analysed the knee position on mawashi to deliver more power, seeing it must go past the target and not point at target. Rapid knee lift and pull back of foot was emphasised in partner work where the target withdrew at kick impact leaving the attacker holding their leg out with hips thrust forward, to ensure correct balance. We finished with close in sparring practise with the opponent’s back to the wall followed by some ground based grappling. Unfortunately, our chief instructor Sensei Paul, during this groundwork, had his head accidentally introduced to the very hard floor resulting in a very fetching shade of purple above his left eye.



Paul tends to his new injury



The full glory


For those who have been on one of the TSKA residential courses, the very word “Sunday” should strike a chord and many memories, because Sunday is the day when the “real” beach training happens (not be confused by the occasional beach training on the Friday evening). After some relatively gentle training and then some kata (the black belts were given Gankaku, which isn’t easy on sand, and Tekki Nidan) we practised some throws and take down (lots of fun on the beach) before the age old joy of entering the sea to practise some punches, kicks and blocks (with the children safely and sensibly supervised). The waves were pretty high this year, which was nice, and the water was as cold as ever.


Note to self. Don’t wear a lightweight gi into the sea since they turn see-through! (Fortunately, I didn’t).


After a good shower and some food, we all headed back to the caravan to sing and drink. A play station had been brought along together with some karaoke games and thus the evening’s entertainment more or less provided itself.



Kerry and Kay go large



Big Dave and Big Steve … with small voices


Monday morning dawned … well, you get the picture. This time the dan grades were allocated Sensei Mitchell who took us through gojushiho-dai. Time seemed (for me, at least) to speed past at this stage. His evident love of the kata shone through and we moved from there to some more realistic bunkai for it. After perhaps a couple of hours of this, Sensei Manning took us through kanku sho, showing us some specific details and nuances to ensure we were comfortable with the kata. Once we finished training we prepared to leave the dojo for another year.


All four instructors came across as knowledgeable and capable yet friendly and approachable. They brought many new aspects to the training (there is always so much to learn) and helped re-invigorate us.




As we prepared to head off, Chris Bell attempted his shodan black belt and, of course, passed the grade (he had been training too hard for too long not to). Carolina Nenca passed her 6th kyu (green belt). Well done Chris and Carolina!


Thus the TSKA 2008 Spring Residential ended on a very positive note for us all. In chatting to the other Wantage karateka since the course I know that everyone thoroughly enjoyed it. At the rate time is speeding on I look forward to next week and the TSKA 2009 Spring Residential.


Dave Paine & Paul Edwards