Sensei Peter Manning, 8th Dan: Special Course at Enso Shotokan Karate Club
Saturday, 23rd of July was a very big day for members of Enso Shotokan Karate club, as it was our second special training course with Sensei Peter Manning 8th Dan, the Chief Instructor of the Traditional Shotokan Karate Association.
In addition, for 5 of our members it was also Dan grading day; something that they had been preparing for for well over a year, but today it was make or break time. These occasions are always a combination of expectation, anticipation, and equally important enjoyment, and learning. And if you are a club instructor with students being graded, a day of hope and anxiety in equal measure, not unlike an expectant father!
We were also delighted to welcome other Karateka from other dojos from far and wide, including Sensei Kathy Darden from Ippon Ken Karate Club all the way from Buckingham, and two of her senior students.
The training started with Sensei Manning doing a vibrant warm up, that shook off the cobwebs straight away. If you have not trained with Sensei Peter, he has a really engaging style of teaching. He is very technical in his delivery and places great emphasis on making Karate an effective form of real budo.
However, he explains himself with a great combination of humor and anecdote to emphasize his points. As he rightly says: "What is the point of doing Karate if it does not work?" and in fairness, he has been able to test it in his capacity as a doorman in pubs and clubs for many years.
So, he knows what works and even more important how to make it work, and simplicity, speed, and power, lie at the heart of effective Shotokan Karate based self defence.
We started off doing some basic punching drills, with the emphasis on contrasting two methods of punching, the first involved showing how double hip twist punching can actually impair the speed and distance of the punch, as it slightly shortened. Effective punching requires the tail bone to be relaxed, and actually the punching arm is actually extended giving both a further extension of several inches as well as improving hikite (or reverse arm pullback). A really valuable take away in the first half hour.
The punching drill was then developed as it included turning left, right, and behind followed by a complete 360 spin, landing in stance to punch in balance - not as easy as it might seem. We then moved up a gear and got stuck into some more advanced basic combinations that had overlaps with the Dan grade syllabus. This was really excellent and I have to admit I loved it. There is nothing better than lining up in a packed dojo and really getting stuck in. The energy in the dojo generates its own intensity, not in a competitive way but you just use that collective effort to improve yourself.
Kicking and punching combinations were the order of the day, with emphasis on relaxation, another key point that Sensei Peter underpins regularly, as the class was almost all Dan grades we all worked on the process of relaxing the body and letting your movement flow, and then applying kime at the end of each technique.
When you watch Sensei Peter move, for a big man he moves with real fluidity and speed. He has also been a natural kicker and you can really see that relaxation make his movement look effortless but very quick and effective. The tempo picked up, so did the technical difficulty as the combinations were weaved together at a faster pace, these combinations test the mind as well as the body, as you compute the 5, 6, 7, kicks and punches that you need to deliver in the correct sequence with power, and correct form.
Extra effort was delivered as pushups were encouraged to make us deliver faster and quicker technique, as always he lead from the front, encouraging us to keep nothing in the tank.
Sensei Peter frequently used many of the students to demonstrate what he wanted us to do. At one point, this included demonstrating the awesome power of leg kicks. This involved rotating the body fully into a low knee or thigh kick, not unlike the mawashigeri in Kyokushinkai. All I can say is that I am glad the bag was there - the power of the kick was extraordinary.
The final element of the first half of the course was to work together to do basic one step ippon kumite. It was basic punches to jodan, chudan, and gedan, blocked then countered with power, focus, and precision, by each partner in turn. The emphasis was on correct distance and timing to ensure that each person remained in range, and capable of delivering powerful and explosive delivery of ippon techniques.
Sensei built up the speed, aggression, and effort, resulting in excellent and spirited attacks and defence, exactly what correct Karate should be like.
The second part of the course focused on kata and an in depth explanation of bunkai in the kata Jitte. This is a personal kata for me, as I did it for my second Dan under the auspices of the late great Sensei Keinosuke Enoeda, “The Boss”. This was after I had been put through my paces by my own Sensei of 31 years, the one and only Shihan Cyril Cummins. It is ironic looking back that both these legendary Karate men would succumb to bowel cancer.
Jitte for me is a deep kata and has an intricacy to it that makes it quite unique. Sensei Peter utilised the four opening moves of the kata and explained his interpretation of how the movements could be used effectively in a self defence context. We then worked in pairs to make the kata become real, again the emphasis being firmly on ensuring the techniques actually worked, in real time, with real threat, rather than the wishy-washy "I punch, you block" kind of unrealistic pretending that simply does not work in reality.
Before we knew it, our 2-hour course was suddenly 2 hours 25 minutes. To be fair, Sensei would have carried on regardless; he was enjoying it as much as we were, but we had gradings to do.
Suffice to say the gradings were a challenging and testing process. Exactly as they should be and after and hour and a half, it was all over. Sensei Manning always said to me that he would not put his name to anyone who did not reach the required standard. A philosophy I utterly endorse. However, on this day, all 5 candidates were successful in their endeavours.
So, sincere congratulations to the following:
Alex Dawes - Shodan
David Lloyd - Shodan
Peter - Nidan
David Pennington - Nidan
Patrick Jones - Sandan
In conclusion, a super course with fantastic feedback from all who attended, from all the clubs represented. My sincere thanks to Sensei Peter, Pat, and the family as well as Senseis David and Ian Reason who came all the way up from Wiltshire to assist Sensei Manning in both the course and the grading, and added real value to the day.
If you get the chance to attend one of these courses, please do feel free to join us, you take an awful lot away and your Karate will improve, and you will enjoy a great day with like-minded traditional, hard-working Shotokan karateka and make new friends.
Austin Birks, 6th Dan
Enso Shotokan Karate Club