Ogwen Bank 2015

1Well, here we are on the Friday, 2nd day home after returning from Ogwen 2015. I’m sat in Costa with a coffee wondering where the heck those four days went? They always pass so quickly, those days of intense karate training and hard work, when you’re so focused on executing each kick, block and punch to the best of your ability despite the battering the elements are throwing at you and performing your best when on the battlefield in the morning. Whoosh. Gone. I won’t do the day-by-day, session-by-session commentary this time, but will just give my overall impressions of the course with some highlights.

For me, it was really about having my mind expanded. I’ve always known on an intellectual level that karate in general, and kata in particular, has many deeper and deeper levels of awareness and understanding of the applications, but somehow, this week, I think a little window has been opened in my mind giving me the tiniest insight of what’s to come on my martial journey! I think it was being given extra time to work with partners and explore bunkai that helped to achieve this, and also some great coaching on the battlefield. It’s also educational to watch the senior Dan grades working together and exploring new twists with more and more advanced levels of bunkai – you don’t very often get to see this happening in real time! As always, it was utterly fantastic to spend time with so many wonderful people, and to learn from them all – the higher grades dispensed equal measures of wisdom and punishment with their coaching and feedback, and us not-so-high grades get the chance to pass on our own limited-but-growing wisdom gained over the years to the lower grades. In short, we learn by being coached and in turn we learn as we coach others.

Sensei Spanton treated us to a new kata training technique in one of the early sessions of the course – as we were all milling around, chatting, warming up and stretching Sensei called for us to stop exactly where we were and not move. Next he told us to start Pinan Shodan in whatever direction we were facing and to take into account any opponent in our paths and to adapt the kata to strike or defend as the situation demanded. Luckily, we did this as single moves and we all found it fascinating as our brains started working overtime figuring out the variations of what we could do next. Fantastic stuff! Sadly, we lost Danni and Stacey after two days due to work commitments, but the rest of us dealt with our sadness and soldiered on. Especially Aaron, all alone in his caravan with The Food Channel! On the last night, in the clubhouse we had a full house result from all those from Luton who were eligible for promotions – Ryan got his 8th Kyu, Aaron was promoted to 3rd Kyu, I was awarded my 1st Kyu and Dave Gooch was assessed at 1st Dan, having come across to us from Shotokan karate. A fantastic result all around – well done everyone! Highlight of the week for me, of course, was being awarded my 1st Kyu and being there to see Mike Clancy and Steve Gibbs both being awarded their 6th dans – to the surprise of both of them and the delight of everyone present. Steve Bell’s “Ogwen Prayer” was the icing on the cake after the presentations. You can read it here. All in all, for me, this was the best Ogwen course I had been on due to my “awakening” and the positivity of all the great people! Bring on Ogwen 2016!

By Simon Mills

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