Southampton United Goju Seminar 2005 Uniting the world of Goju Karate
by Graham Wendes
Sunday April 3rd 2005 saw the second in what promises to be a long running series of United Goju Seminars. This UGS was held at the Eastpoint Centre in Southampton. The event attracted a wide variety of participants ranging from white belts to 6th dan's.
The premiere UGS was held in October 2004, in Kent. The reason for the inception of the UGS was the idea of bringing together different aspects and approaches of various schools of Goju Ryu/ Kai. The intention was never to unite clubs or associations, trying to create some kind of “super-Goju” organisation, in fact the organisers have made every effort to avoid karate politics. It was about uniting people, the intention being to increase everyone’s knowledge by exploring their differences in a rare atmosphere of complete mutual respect. Had I not attended, I would have considered that a hiding to nothing, perhaps incredibly brave, or maybe just plain futile. Sometimes it’s good to be wrong.
After the raging success of the 2004 UGS, the Southampton UGS was eagerly awaited.
We went expecting a lot from the instructors on the day, looking forward to meeting new pilgrims of martial understanding, and we were certainly not disappointed. It was one amazing day.
Each of the instructors had a background of education that is unusual in these days of quick profit. Many karate instructors gain a large breadth of experience and training, these learned people had gone deep, right back to the roots, and in one case, right down to the genetics of Goju.
There was a slight change to the format compared to the 2004 UGS, rather than working in small groups and rotating between the instructors, we trained as one large group. It worked well, kyu grades being helped in their understanding by higher grades, and dan grades being reminded of how confusing things can be at first. Always a valuable lesson.
Mike Clark Sensei 5th dan, of the Sodokan and his associate Kevin Williams Sensei introduced the linking and connecting techniques used on engaging an attacker, expanding on the principles introduced during his session at the 2004 UGS. Great emphasis was put on relaxing the upper body to allow both speed and freedom of movement, facilitating the appliance of power without undue effort, and giving the ability to absorb an incoming punch. Stances were fluid, almost without form, moving positions effortlessly then delivering the shockwave. We practiced feints and disorientation, leading the opponent into the position we wanted, then trapping and controlling their legs with ours. Using avoidance and guile, then finishing the job. Very clever.
After the scientific and philosophical approach of Clark Sensei's session, the next one was a real wake up call! Kurt Buxey Sensei 5th dan Solent Goju-ryu, who had us tied in knots and wrist locks at 2004 UGS returned with his brother Kevin Buxey Sensei 5th dan Eastpoint Karate, for the sequel, “UGS2, Enter the Buxeys – brothers in armlocks.” This was no less a serious session, but what a laugh! The control of joints, established in Clark Sensei's session continued, but the focus was now upon locking the opponent up, and changing direction quickly when they are too stupid to quit then taking them down to the floor. The additional option for controlling them if their arms are not readily available was to use the nose.....yes - the NOSE!!
Working the techniques as they come naturally to you, not trying to learn something out of your scope. For example, ducking under their arm if you were too short to take it back and over. Then the finale, stopping an oncoming train (or dan grade running at you) with a straight mae-geri. When you were on the receiving end of that one, Sensei Mike’s advice on closing down the chest and abs was invaluable. Bumps and bruises all round, cool badges of honour to wear home.
During lunch some of the instructors performed some great demos! First of all was Tim Nicklin Sensei with his assistant Sensei Helen. Sensei Tim performed a kama kata and Sensei Helen performed a very precise Bo kata. Following the kata Sensei Tim demonstrated defence with kama against the Bo of Sensei Helen.
Following Sensei Tim and Helen was Robert Patton Shihan 6th dan Taifu Karate kai, who was enjoying the seminar as an attendee. Sensei Robert performed this and that....it was good.....blah...blah. (anyone know details?)
Sifu Simon Lailey displayed three ancestor forms of Sanchin kata, this one, that one, and another one. It was a great experience to witness such historical practices first hand and gave us an idea of what we were in for for the last session of the day.
Following Simon was Terry Brown, event organiser, who performed Kata Sepai.
Tim Nicklin Sensei 5th dan Mumei Juku (check sp), and the indestructible Sensei Helen took the first session after lunch, drawing us further into close hand to hand work. First contact again, up close and personal, covering them down with fast sticking hands. Trying to stop your partner from sticking one on you, whilst trying to get a dig in on them. More badges of honour. Expanding the theme of fluid movement and understanding the principle of only one stance - your feet are on the floor, and you are stood on them - deconstructing the rigidity of the Japanese militaristic influence. A section of Kururunfa was used to show that karate is the kata and the bunkai. Emphasis on the need for training with equipment to properly learn focus and distance. Sensei Tim throughout explained the true meaning of many of the terms misused and taken for granted in karate in general. It makes a difference when you understand what the word really means. No tact or diplomacy, he shot straight from the lip, and the session was all the better for the refreshing honesty.
Sifu Simon Lailey, who has spent many years researching the origins of karate, through Goju Ryu, and back to its roots in Fujian, China – at one time living there for 2 years - brought it all together in the last session. After the vigorous physicality of the previous sessions, he opened with a talk in which he told us his original influence wasn’t the dynamism and acrobatic violence of Bruce Lee, but the peaceful avoidance and minimal response of Kwai Chang Caine. He explained the Fujianese roots of the Goju system, and gave a very intelligent comparison of the way the culture and holistic nature of Goju permeates our lives in every way. He explained the connection between ongoing health and the martial arts. He showed how stances that appear awkward only do so because we use them as a snapshot, not a part of the moving process and going with the flow, bringing us always back to some version of the horse stance, but not the rigid one with which we are all familiar.
We practised again the searching sticky hands, progressing into deflecting, or moving around our opponent and turning them as a first response. Locking them down, and if they persist, bringing them down, and escalating the response to necessary force. It was a great end to a great day.
Two things stood out on this seminar. First, the complete frankness of the instructors who showed no ego whatsoever, just total confidence in what they had discovered, and the understanding to be able to share their vast knowledge. Second, the incredibly relaxed social atmosphere. Everyone from every branch of the arts just relaxed in each others company, sharing their varied experience, and thereby enhancing the learning experience of each attendee. The social side is growing fast, the two day Birmingham UGS in October will be a gathering of the clans.
It is interesting to see various ryu's gathering to share their approaches and understanding. Although vastly different, the underlying principles are the same confirming that each ryu despite having independent approaches are all spokes of the same wheel. However the organisers had the wisdom to know that to try to unite all the spokes would have led to a collapsed wheel, but they were enlightened enough to see the links that would bring people together to share the knowledge of the individual paths. No one with any experience of martial arts politics could have dreamed what a fantastic success UGS would become.
If you train in any style of Japanese or Okinawan karate, Te, Kempo, Kung Fu, etc you would benefit from attending the Birmingham UGS (BUGS). No one is trying to change your mind or allegiance.
If you would like to come to BUGS, I’d suggest you book early, the UGS is growing fast and BUGS is sure to be a very popular event. So pencil 22nd & 23rd October into your diary and be sure to join us at the Birmingham Sports Centre, Highgate, Birmingham. We have a monumental line up of instructors including Tony Christian, Chris Rowen, Paul Coleman, Gavin Mulholland........Further details will be made available nearer the time. In the meantime you can check out www.ugs2005.com for details, reports and pictures of the Southampton UGS and keep upto scratch of the BUGS planning. Or contact Terry Brown regarding any aspect of the UGS on 07947 653 860 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In closing, I’d like to leave you with the words spoken by every instructor at both UGS:
“We hope you have learned something that you can take away and make it work for you, feel free to throw away the rest, but most of all, we hope you had a really good time.”
No politics, no egos, no way am I missing the next one.