Back from Japan


Back from my two week holiday in Japan. Thanks very much to Jason, Sensei Ian and the seniors for running the class while I was off. Unfortunately, the way my flights were scheduled meant I was actually away for quite a few sessions.

I had a great break…I’ve haven’t been back for 5 years and was great to be back and a much needed rest as I hadn’t had a holiday for over 3 years. Didn’t do any training – I used to go every year when I was doing Shorinji Kempo and train hard. This time is was hot springs, eating great food, speaking lots of Japanese and doing what Randy Couture calls “active rest” – conditioning and running every day. Actually its my first real stint at jogging since I had my knee operations so it was nice to get my running legs back. The weather wasn’t so hot – about the same as the UK, but the humidity was a killer. Even a 20 min run left me drenched in sweat. Still – I did go sightseeing and see a ninja village which was a right laugh.

Anyway nice to be back. Injuries feeling stronger and be back training hard next week. Last week of practise for the graders but lots of great training to come.

See you on Tuesday where I shall be dishing out some Japanese cakes.

Summer Camp Brilliance

Summer CampWhat a fantastic weekend! The inaugural Bushin Summer Camp was far better than I or anyone else had hoped for. We returned to the birthplace of Bushin at the Salisbury Ki Aikido Dojo and residence of Sensei Andrew Ferguson, father of our very own Sensei Ian. The complex is a converted farm which hosts a massive, fully equipped dojo and sleeping quarters in scenic forestry surroundings. Despite the drive out of London, the camp site made up for it and more. A fantastic venue with restaurant standard food served to us, great facilities and, for a pleasant change, no internet/phone reception.

We arrived a little late on Friday night but training got eventually got underway. Everyone was keen to shake off the week and get smashing leather. We kicked off with Filipino “dirty” boxing, concentrating on combining disruptions, limb destruction and half-beat hits, before crashing in and finishing with takedowns. A great way to start the weekend. Lots of bruises, lots of sweat, lots of smiles.

After training, we tucked into a fantastic curry dinner, Viking style, and then started the evening entertainment with Sensei Ian’s cinema setup to have a karaoke contest. Fortunately the singing standard was better than expected and so the resident dogs didn’t start howling. We finished off with watching some of the very early and very brutal UFC fights, which was enough the give anyone a restless night.

On Saturday morning the sun was shining through the beautiful woodland. Of course, there is no better way to kick off the day than have a morning run. Unfortunately, the fool-proof map was given to a moron (me), who turned a 10 minute trot into a 30 minute marathon. That said, everyone survived and, after a full course breakfast, lived to fight through the day.

The Saturday morning session focused on a basic punch and kick, both with lots of variations and applications. All sparred in as usual. Simple but complicated. We then moved on to stand-up fighting techniques (goho), looking at how to stay calm under pressure and stick to basic block & counter from a swinging and kicking brawler. The legs wobbled, the sweat poured but the fighters stayed firm.

We broke for lunch and had a talk about my interpretation of the history of martial arts and the story of how Bushin was formed. The dojo was where Ian and I finalised and graded each other through the whole Bushin syllabus, four years ago. It felt great to return but this time with a group of dedicated, talented and perhaps slightly mad, street fighters.

The afternoon session was a bit lighter and more technical. We knuckled down on some stand-up grappling (juho), focusing on principles and trying to get the knack (kotsu) of a technique. We then moved to clinch work, working the neck and body to grapple and lock. Realising that rigour mortis was setting in, we switched to a hard session of acupressure massage (seiho). For some reason everyone looked ready to fight again.

In the evening we were treated to a barbeque, where some members (mentioning no names) attempted their usual trick of eating their own bodyweight…and then the person next to them. We then continued the entertainment with a PS Streetfighter contest. There were lots of tense moments and some accusations of cheating but ultimately Team Barker beat Team Ferguson fairly and squarely, meaning the latter had to clean the communal kit. We rounded off with watching Zatoichi…one of the best modern samurai movies of all time. Some even survived to see the credits.

Sunday morning was more laid back. A Taichi session in the woods seemed far more civilised and we all tried to get in touch with nature (without hugging trees). The morning session was another hard one – putting forms (kata) into practise and trying to work style over application. With an imaginary audience of thousands of adoring fans, we all tried to look as good as we could. I was still waiting for my flowers and chocolates throughout the day.

We moved onto sparring (randori), where everyone shone. To try and encourage individualism I gave everyone a personal fighting tip to work on while we worked through the 5 principles of JKD. The standard at the end was measurably better. Everyone seemed to improve and one of the ladies invented a new punch called “koshi zuki” (hip punch). I’ll show the knuckle shaped bruise for those that want proof.

After the slobbery watermelon race between Jason and Fiona, we started the groundwork war. I thought everyone would be too tired by this point but they just couldn’t seem to get enough of it. We worked slaps and submissions from various positions and tried to lock in some counters and reversals. Yelps, scrapes, grunts and a few squeaks. Fortunately the only fluid that leaked, came out of the pores.

To rounds off the weekend’s fun we finished with weapons – knife fighting and defences with some prison break free-for-all. Then we had a quick blast at stick-fighting, where everyone danced like Fred Astaire and slashed like Zatoichi. Jason and I put on a demo to show that if you bend the rules a little bit, bits of your body may accidentally get lopped off.

After a hard 2½ days training we did some presentations, including Malika passing her yellow after proving herself in the juho session. We gave some well-earned presents to our outstanding hosts and limped off home to re-discover what the internet and iphones were again.

I’m sure everyone will have their views but for me, high points were the stick sparring and coming back from near death in Streetfighter to beat Ian. The low point was realising the morning run had gone horribly wrong. Thanks to Fiona for organising lunch, thanks to Ian for sorting the venue, thanks to our fabulous hosts for looking after us and, finally, thank you all for coming and making it special. I hope you enjoyed it and learnt a lot, as I did.

Aching limbs and an odd feeling of tiredness, knowing that you should really sleep for a week but the buzz is still flowing? Never thinking you would be able to complete a marathon weekend, but you did…and want to do it again? Back to real life but knowing you’ve been part of something special, you can’t help smiling now and again? It must be Summer camp. It must be Bushin. Same again next year?