Winter school has always been billed as the more relaxed of our DKK weekends, and this year was no exception - except for the exceptions...
With the scale of the task front-and-centre in their minds after witnessing the gruelling fight to Nidan, and according to newly-instituted tradition (which I suspect is an oxymoron), it was then time for the new Nidan candidates to officially announce their intention to face the line-up in 2015. Seven of us stood up, committed to the fight, and downed the obligatory whiskey shot. I look forward to taking the field next year alongside Phlips, Nick, Jake, Richard, Bondi and Mike!
For the final teaching session of the day, Sensei Mulholland gave us an introduction to a sai kata by the name of Nicho Sai. I’ve always found the sai to be a difficult weapon to get to grips with, having an unfamiliar weight distribution and moderately complex handling requirements (at least compared to our usual stick-based weaponry), however having access to a dedicated kata has helped my feel for the weapon enormously. This is another reminder that our holistic approach to training including kihon, bunkai and kata gives us multiple paths to understanding.
The evening saw a return to the bar to Announce the results of the morning’s activities and deliver prizes of sake for the winners (“Team Diversity”) and the Wooden Spoon of Humiliation and Toilet-Cleaning Duties for the slow-moving losers (the subtly-renamed “Team Crotch”). We then took time to reflect on the day, to discuss Nidan kumite strategies, and to raise a glass to John Sowersby of the Portishead club, who we lost earlier this year to Pneumonia brought on by his fight with Leukemia. After that came the traditional migration to the fore for banter, songs and more sake.
After the success of the etiquette and discipline class last year, Sensei Mulholland followed up with more on this subject, both the hows and the whys. In addition to management of the dojo line-up as people join or leave the class, he also explained how to deal with late arrival, turns and the formalities around partner drills and sparring as well as answering a range of questions on the day-to-day of training in the dojo environment.
After the usual whirlwind of clearing, tidying and cleaning our weekend’s accommodation we moved back out to the field for the final session of Winter School: stick fighting. Sensei Lewis continued the “fundamentals” theme present throughout the preceding days and had us working on engagement with multiple opponents and various disarms.
With that it was time for the traditional close of thanks, handshakes and farewells until the organisation next comes together. I’d like to finish with my thanks for the organisation, assistance and imparted wisdom of our Senseis as they once again laid on an excellent and enjoyable retreat, and with a more personal note of gratitude for the advice I received - and hopefully will continue to receive - as I make my way towards the 30-man kumite in June.
DKK Shodan & 2015 Nidan Candidate