What a week! Beginning last Thursday, April 9th, the International Federation of Karate (Kyokushin) Canada, known as the IFK, hosted a seminar with guest instructor Shihan David Pickthall, vice president of the IFK, at Contact Kicks Dojo in Toronto, Canada.
Shihan David started his Kyokushin career in 1976 at the Crawley dojo in the UK and still trains at the dojo to this day. Shihan was the BKK Kata coach for the 1st and 2nd World Tournaments as well as the Great Britain Knockdown coach. He has represented both Crawley dojo and Britain at a number of competitions at both the national and international levels. His resume of competition results is too long to mention in this article, but it goes without saying that he is a true master of Kyokushin. So, we were very honoured to have him as our guest in Canada and to instruct us.
What you first notice about Shihan David is his warm personality. He is very approachable and listens to everyone from white belts to the highest of ranks. The same respect is given to all, which is very refreshing. His breadth of knowledge becomes immediately known. It is very obvious that he has been around the Kyokushin world and not only knows the greats of Kyokushin, he is one of the greats of Kyokushin.
I don’t have the Kyokushin experience of others, but I can say that the training, directed by Shihan David , included a staggering amount of high level knowledge and was delivered in a masterful way.
Shihan David’s instruction was a balance of conditioning, kihon, kata and kumite, and concentrated on how one weaves and influences the other. Here is a very brief outline of what Shihan David taught:
Kihon – For some, the practice of kihon can be boring and feel repetitive. Shihan David has an ability to take something mundane and make it exciting. For people who are knowledgable of the IFK Syllabus, Shihan took what is usually a mostly static standing practice and turned into a seamlessly interrelated, dynamic and powerful experience. Moving the combinations up and down the dojo floor, through the various stances, with corrections throughout under the watchful eye of Shihan David. There was much emphasis on generating power through the entire body to the point of impact. The use of the hips, the focus on kime, and proper positioning. The evolution of stances in kyokushin was stressed. Because Kyokushin is hard style focused on true fighting, the stances are somewhat different from other traditional styles of karate, like Shotokan. For example, with the emphasis of a forward lean into the strike. Shihan directed us all on the fine points and had time to correct everyone who needed it, and we all benefited from his keen eye.
KUMITE – This part of the lesson, like all lessons, was strongly linked to the aspects taught in kihon. One thing that was of great interest to me, was the focus on generating power and force naturally through body mechanics, without the unnecessary use of energy zapping physical force of muscle power. Utilizing stances, angles, hip rotation, a strike could become not only powerful, but setting your opponent up for the next strike. Shihan David made this look effortless, but I quickly learned that things are not always as easy as they seem. They are lessons that I will take with me and work on for a long time to come. The use of angles, footwork and positioning was remarkable. He can take one of the simplest techniques of kyokushin like Shita Tsuki and make it one of the most effective fighting techniques of your arsenal.
CONDITIONING – Masterfully blended from one lesson into the next. New approaches to old exercises. Pushups that focused on core strength. Abdominal exercises that challenged your very core. Stretches that focused on strengthening as well as lengthening. Lunges from day one progressed over each session and day, until those lunges from the first class were now positioning in kumite to deliver a better Shita Tsuki.
Like most of the lessons from the week, Shihan David stressed that he wanted proper technique, not speed. This was in everything from conditioning to kihon. He seemed to be more interested in 10 techniques performed great, then 30 with the speed, and poor technique. Every movement had a practical purpose and nothing was done wastefully.
The second last day of the seminar, and last class of the day, was dedicated to kumite for the students who were grading, which included our Sempai going for Nidan. By the time the fighting began, we were all pretty sore from the days leading up to it, but we gave it our all. As tough as it was for each of us going for kyu ranks, I can’t imagine how hard it must have been for him. We were all very proud of Senpai, and each of us.
The last day completed the testing with Shihan David and Sensei Fogarasi. I felt incredibly proud. Proud of each of us, for the work we put in, and what we accomplished. But a sense of pride also for our teacher. Sensei Steve Fogarasi. We all wanted to demonstrate what he has taught us and make him proud in front of Shihan. And I hope we achieved that. We are extremly lucky to have such an amazing teacher and belong to an organization that has so much focus on developing great Kyokushin Karate-ka.
When the week ended there was a certain sense of melancholy. The training every day brought us all closer. Dinner and drinks in the evenings, the Sayanora party, every aspect. We made new friends who joined us from all over, including new friends from Quebec; SenseiJohn Kalaidopoulos, Sempai Dominic Duclos and Sensei Jonathan Hemond. Sempai Timo Grahl from Germany. Shihan Michael Monaco from IFK USA. It really was an amazing experience.
There are no words to do justice for how great the seminar was and how hournered we were to be instructed by Shihan David. I’d like to offer my thanks here to Shihan David Pickthall and Sensei Fogarasi, as well as a special thank you to Sempai Mici Fogarasi for organizing this amazing event.
Domo arigato gozaimashita!