I just returned from my vacation, which included attending the British Karate Kyokushinkai (BKK) Summer Camp in the UK, led by Hanshi Steve Arneil of the IFK. The camp was held about an hour from London at Felsted School, Felsted, Dunmow, Essex. A private school with beautiful grounds and facilities.
I traveled to the summer camp with my teacher, Sensei Steve Fogarasi, along with his wife Senpai Mici Fogarasi and their son. The anticipation and build-up for the event was certainly worth it. It was an amazing time with an amazing group of people. We felt welcomed and part of a large wonderful family.
Exhausted traveling from Canada, with no sleep for over 30hrs, the first class we attended was a little rough. Due to flight schedule we missed the earlier classes of the day. That first class was taught by Hanshi Steve Arneil himself, and I felt very honoured to be part of the class with students from all over, in the presence of a man that I have only known through stories, pictures and video.
That first class focused on a “moving” warm-up, utilizing dynamic stretches. I often start with dynamic stretches myself, but haven’t done them moving in this fashion. Hanshi took us through various stances that would culminate each into a dynamic stretch. After being prone for many hours in the air, as well as driving in a car, I was a little stiff and the sequence of stretching soon got my joints and blood moving.
This was followed by drilling the IFK Syllabus. Done in a moving sequence and incorporating kata. One kyu of syllabus would be performed followed immediately by a kata from that same kyu. For example, 10th Kyu Syllabus with Taikyoku Sono Ichi. Move to 9th kyu and continue on.
For those not familiar with the IFK and Syllabus training, one goal of Steve Arneil when forming the IFK was consistency. The idea was that every Kyokushin karateka in any country, at any dojo would perform the techniques and katas the same. Hence, Hanshi Arneil developed a systematic grading syllabus for the IFK and published books on Kyokushin kata. With each grade, you are exposed to more techniques, and kata obviously, with increasing complexity. You can read more about this here.
After class and a much needed shower everyone gathered in the dinning hall for dinner. Here I met many karate-ka from England, Ireland and other parts of Europe.
I crashed hard that night, but due to the time difference I was waking in the middle of the night. It didn’t seem like very long before I found myself awake and in the gymnasium at 6:30AM for circuit training with Shihan David Pickthall.
This was a gruelling class with the focus on conditioning. We would run the court back and forth in sprints marked with spots on the floor and pyramid 10-8-6-4-2 various bodyweight exercises at the end of the sprint. For example, run the floor back and forth four times and do 10 push-ups at the end. Run the sprints again, and perform 8 push-ups. Continue on until 2, and repeat the entire session with a different calisthenic exercise. Toe touch laying on the back, Walk outs, Split lunge, etc.
An absolutely savage class that left me completely drained afterward, and very hungry for breakfast. A small break to recoup a little and it was off to 10:30AM class.
I won’t go through the details of each class, but there were four sessions per day. Early morning, mid morning, afternoon and evening. At each session there would be various classes taking place, taught be different Shihan. Some on the football field and some inside the gymnasium. Depending on your focus you could take classes focusing on kihon, kata, bunkai, conditioning or kumite.
The caliber of instruction was outstanding, with classes taught by Hanshi Steve Arneil, Shihan Liam Keaveney, Shihan Alex Kerrigan, Shihan Nick Da Costa, Sensei Ageli Mossadek, and Shihan David Pickthall. All of whom were amazing and I learnt so much from each of them. Lessons I will carry with me for a lifetime.
The other thing that struct me was how approachable and humble these high ranks were, including Hanshi himself. I have seen other organizations where a Shihan or Hanshi won’t even speak with lower kyu ranks. Not the case here. Hanshi greeted me with an Osu!, handshake and humour. Just a wonderful man.
The final afternoon was sparring on the field. With my shaved head almost purple from sunburn I was glad for a little overcast haze in the sky. There were many people testing during the camp, some of whom at the black belt levels. So everyone was expected to help with fresh bodies for those going through their kumite for grading. It was so much fun and it was great to spar with people of varying skill levels from all over. I only spared 6 rounds and was feeling the heat and exhaustion, so I can’t imagine what it would have been like for those doing 20 or more!
The final session was a gathering in the gymnasium for belt and award presentations. Many people were awarded their kyu and dan ranks, but the emotional and special moment for myself was when my own instructor, Sensei Steve Fogarasi
was awarded his Yondan, 4th Degree, Black Belt. It was truly an emotional experience and I couldn’t have felt more proud. I have never met a more dedicated teacher and couldn’t imagine someone who deserves the recognition more.
After a much needed rest, shower … and drive for beer, the camp concluded with a Sayonara Party. Each belt level did a skit or song for Hanshi Arneil and the Shihans, including myself. A little embarrassing but a whole lot of fun!
It was a great evening with a chance to say good-bye to many people that I hope to see again someday. Kyokushin and the IFK in particular is such a wonderful organization where it truly feels like a big family. I received so many invitations from people all over to visit and train. Paris, Germany, France, England, Ireland and more. It is a great feeling to know that no mater where I go in the world, I will have a friend.
I sincerely thank the BKK and IFK for hosting this amazing event and for the opportunity to participate. I am sure it won’t be my last.