The weekend retreat in Wales was the first for the Zenshin dojo 1st kyu (brown belt) group. After navigating enforced traffic delays, including the South Wales rush hour, accidents and roadworks, eventually eight members, drawn from across Zenshin dojo, sat together to enjoy excellent food prepared by Lucy. The idea of the retreat is to bring people together, allowing them to mix and
mingle in a way ordinarily difficult during the weekly practice schedule.It doubles as an intensive karate experience and socially enjoyable get together. Lucy had pre-prepared an excellent chilli; one veggie, one meat, and all the trimmings. After supper, the group moved outside to the decking area adjacent to woodland and, in the cool evening air, drank, joked and conversed with each other whilst sitting comfortably around a blazing fire pit.
The next morning, after breakfast and posing for a pre practice photo, the group drove the short distance to LLanstefan beach. The weather was amazing. The sun shone, the big sky was clear blue, the rolling Welsh hills green and picturesque. The otherwise deserted beach was a vast open space of golden sand ranging from talc like softness to a yielding firmness.
Practice began immediately with a run to the water line and back before lining up for kihon. The kihon practice, although simple and basic, enjoyed a magical quality. The group were encouraged to take advantage of their spacious, open and glorious surroundings, keeping their vision up and out as they moved slowly and methodically back and forth for a considerable distance. The gang then adjourned to the water’s edge where the group experienced kiba dachi and shiko dachi, rooting themselves to the ground to prevent being blown over by the significantly strong, warm wind racing across the water. It was as if nature itself was testing their stances.
Later, the group worked their Heian katas and were introduced to the conceptual “circle of excellence”, designed to encourage and improve their understanding of mushin and zanshin. From Heian they progressed to Bassai Dai, the traditional 1st kyu to 1st dan kata. Much work needed to be done and the group separated into pairs, working with each other, feeding back and discussing techniques.
Lunch back at the Lodge was provided by Gemma and Bev; a simple but delicious selection of salad, condiments, bread, quiche and cold meats. Ninety minutes later everyone was back on the beach, thrown head first into fast Sanbon, Ippon, jyu Ippon and jyu kumite. It was a tough session, but the time available allowed Rob to explain in detail the fundamentals of kumite, its nuances and what was expected. The group rose to the challenge and after much practice the intensity of engagement and overall understanding grew to a more advanced level.
After a short water break, it was the turn of Tekki drills from the “clinch”. Unfamiliar for some and a refresher for others. After explaining these exercises were a form of kumite, but often interpreted as more obvious self defence techniques, as opposed to the more profound skills and qualities found in the previous kumite practice, Rob took the opportunity to place Emily under considerable pressure by organising a mock “clinch” assessment. Her seven assailants lined up in front of her and attacked with right hooks as Emily defended herself with vigour and searched for the presence of mind to deliver effective responses.
As the clouds began to gather the group moved to the water’s edge for final Bassai Dai practice. First in groups, then solo, then finally in the cold, River Towy water.