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Sticks and Stones

One of the rather strange questions that I have been asked over the years by people who have found out that I have been training in Shotokan over the decades is this:

"Why do you train in a sport that means that you get hurt? You know, when ever I see you, you have these nasty bruises on your arms and shoulders, and sometimes elsewhere. Why on earth would you want to pay to end up getting hurt?"

To be fair, it is not, if I am being objective, an unreasonable question to ask and maybe if I did not train myself, I might find it odd.

The truth of the matter is that I have long since stopped noticing if I am being perfectly honest. Do not get me wrong, I still feel the power and the force of the technique, but as for the physical reminders of strong Shotokan, they are just, well, there.

I remember one of the things that my Sensei Shihan Cyril Cummins, 8th Dan, used to say to me over the years when we did demonstrations at courses, gradings, public events, etc.

He used to say to me: ”Let's show these people what Shotokan is really all about” and with that I used to attack him as hard as I could with full commitment, and he in turn would dispatch the attack, deliver a power driver of a counter-attack and often, just for good measure, a take-down and invariably deliver the killing blow, or Ikken Hissatsu.

Very often, my memories were of me lying on the floor of the dojo with this extraordinary man delivering seriously strong techniques that were always with intense control. I could literally feel the energy he delivered. It was like a force field.

The other thing that I vividly recall were the gasps that people emitted as they witnessed this incredible display of Karate skill that his decades of training had instilled within him.

Ironically, for all the punches, kicks, strikes and throws that I survived, I never really felt pain. However, within 24 hours the physical manifestation in the form of a black and purple bruises was there, which for professional reasons I used to cover up. It does not send out a good message when as a senior manager you turn up to work festooned with bruises; some staff misunderstand what you do in your spare time!

And the strange thing is that bit by bit you get almost used to it, the pain is not noticed and in truth it toughens you up, whether you like it or not.

When I look back now at videos of demos that Shihan Cummins and I did over many years, I feel a sense of both great loss at his passing, but also pride as we did our personal and collective best to try and demonstrate the skill, power, control and most importantly, respect that traditional Shotokan is all about.

So, a little bruise here and there, a small price to pay my friends…


Sensei Austin

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