Australian Gasshuku Report

Australian Gasshuku, Canberra, ACT
18-20 May 2012

There are many martial distractions these days – UFC on DVD and satellite TV, MMA everywhere, and endless Youtube clips to view and to share – all at the expense of training time. Premier athletes are at the top of their game because they practice – golfers work on their swing, tennis players their strokes, cyclists cycle, swimmers swim, and rowers row. Karate is punching and kicking. To get better at karate we need to punch and kick – again, and again, and again. The dojo floor is our training ground and it is there we grind away at the basics – or “Bakkies’ Boring Basics”, as Sensei Bakkies Laubscher of South Africa calls them, without apology.

In Canberra in May 2012 Sensei Bakkies reminded those present that if you work on your basics then your body will know what to do when it needs to. Put the fancy locks and holds and pressure points aside and concentrate on developing blocks that damage and counter strikes that finish. Decades of experience has provided Sensei Bakkies with the insight that you are most vulnerable when you attack, so that most combat is determined by the retaliation.

Over the course of three days, in the elegant dojo of Australian co-Chief Instructor Sensei Joe Roses, and in the impressive Australian Institute of Sport, Sensei Bakkies drilled the 80+ karateka present on basics, basics, basics – standing basics, moving basics, ippon kumite, san dan gi and more. Locking your core, moving swiftly, blocking with power and then using the power of the block to counter with devastating intent.

Kata was not neglected, with dan grade sessions devoted to Tensho – which develops the hand movements for all the other kata; to Seisan – ideal for people with larger stature; and to Seiyunchin – which contains the essence of Goju Ryu. As Sensei Bakkies said, when he wants to assess someone’s Goju, he has them do Seiyunchin.

Robin Hood (Napier dojo) and I were made most welcome by senseis Joe Roses and Chris Larken, the Australian Chief Instructors; we enjoyed partnering with DJ, Karl, Ari, Garry, Sam and others; we sweated alongside Gavin, Kevin, Michael, Simon and the rest; and we sympathised with Paul, who was the chosen “crash test dummy” for Sensei Bakkies’ “explanations” (what other father-in-law gets to bash, choke and pummel their future son-in-law with impunity?).

It was a hard, challenging, hugely rewarding weekend. I urge all Kiwi karateka to take every opportunity to cross the ditch and train with the Aussies – you’ll be warmly welcomed, shown every courtesy, and pushed without mercy to train your hardest!

Phil Seddon
Otago University Karate Club, Dunedin

Note: Phil’s attendance at the Canberra Gasshuku was generously assisted by the IOGKFNZ Travel Fund.