S.A. Goju Ryu Jundokan National Winter Gasshuku 07th/08th August 2010 

by Sunil Gopal Sempai

My overwhelming feeling at the end of this Gasshuku was one of humbleness. I suppose a Gasshuku affects everyone differently. Two days of intensive Okinawa Goju Ryu training has definitely left an impression on me. Karate develops oneself physically, mentally and spiritually, and all these elements were magnified in the Gasshuku.

The Yudansha and invited adult students of the South African Goju Ryu Jundokan Branch Dojo's from around the country met on a balmy Saturday afternoon in Durban.  For a start, in the first session at the Bechet Dojo, Llewellyn Sempai forgot to open all the windows...so the heat was definitely on.  After a rigorous two and a half hour session of basics we were all starting to feel the intensity and rigorous pace.  Repeating the basic blocks, punches and kicks in various combinations allowed us to hone our technical skills and push our physical limits. The session was indeed energy-sapping.

The session was promptly followed by the first part of the grading for those who were nominated for grading. From Yellow to Black Belts these students were put through their paces. Buddy Sensei has set the highest standard and expected students to perform at this level. Despite their obvious tiredness from the preceding session, everybody displayed their respective Kata with excellent effort and determination.

After a short refreshment break we settled down to the first of two lectures that was both entertaining and informative by one of our Yudansha who is also a practicing medical doctor, Javid Mulla. With his medical background he was able to educate us about different aspects of the human body and how it affects us as althletes/karate-ka.  Javid's excellent lecture was followed by a presentation by Buddy Sensei on Dojo etiquette, responsibilites and expectations. Buddy Sensei explained that as practitioners of traditional Karate-Doh, we must know that it is not a sport nor the same as signing up for a gym membership!  The karate that we practice imposes on all of us 'Giri' or obligation to behave in a certain way both in and out of the dojo. This is perhaps the most important element of Karate-Doh as it impacts on our training as well as how we undertake our other responsibilities in life. Buddy Sensei also spoke about the different elements that we need to focus on to improve our performance and understanding of Kata and, how we bring them all together through training and perservering consistantly.

Physically and mentally challenged this brought an end to the first dayís programme. It goes without saying that everyone slept like a baby that night.

The next morning we gathered at Burman Bush, a green lung in the heart of the City of Durban. If we had thought that the physically challenging session of the Gasshuku was over we were sorely mistaken. We set off for a run through this nature reserve - stopping a various spots to perform kicks over a park bench or squat jumps over a concrete barrier. After a few short runs and bouts of karate we ran into the heart of the bush. There is almost a spiritual element to running through the reserve. The run is meandering and seemingly endless. The sheer physicality of running up and down, avoiding obstacles, jumping over others and keeping ones balance all the time heightened ones sense of awareness. After a while one forgets where one is, focusing merely on putting one step in front of the other. Importantly we also urged each other along, helping those who had difficulty and ensuring that we carried each other through the exercise. It was a joy to finally reach the viewing spot above the city, one of Durbanís hidden secrets. We then performed Kata Gekisai Dai Ichi and Saifa on a narrow wooden deck - deepening our understanding of the Kata under different conditions from that in our dojo's. Our sense of accomplishment was complete, but far from over.

Performing Sanchin and Tensho katas beneath the gigantic trees heightened our sense of spiritual awareness as we became one with nature. After a short break we returned to our training base camp. We were broken into different groups.  Buddy Sensei took charge of the Yudansha while Riaz, Pratish and John Sempais assisted the Kohai. After a session with the chi-shi, we were fortunate that Buddy Sensei unpacked the finer points of Sesan kata. He also spent time with the kohai correcting them on their technique.

Then it was time for some bag work. This sapped our remaining strength and pushed us beyond our limits, just when we thought the hard part was over. By this point quite a number of us collapsed as our muscles simply went into spasm. However, with a little bit of Deep Heat courtesy of Tanya we were all back on our feet for the next session. We then broke up into groups for continuous bouts of kata and kumite. This was followed by the second part of the grading for those who had qualified. The rest of us were glad just to watch. We then had a fun session with Rehana providing some interesting underwear or outerwear to use as a blindfold!  This brought an end to the Gasshuku and upon clearing and cleaning up the site, we packed and headed home in preparation of the evenings Kampai at the St Theresa's Dojo.  

We all met again, some with our families at the St Theresa's Dojo at 6pm for an evening of good food, refreshments and relaxation after a tough but enjoyable 2 days.  The grading results were announced and apart from 2 students, all the others were successful.  We had an excellent evening trading stories of the various highlights of the Gasshuku.

As we celebrate Womenís Day today on 09 August in our country we are glad to have had a number of women in our midst who were empowered to kick butt in more ways than one should they need to.  More importantly though the Gasshuku left me with a feeling of humbleness. We are humbled to have Buddy Sensei as our instructor, not only because of his depth of knowledge and understanding of Okinawa Goju-Ryu Karate-Doh, but also for his inspirational leadership. While many are fortunate to be full-time karate instructors, Buddy Sensei also holds down a demanding job with the City of Durban. Iím not sure where he finds the energy, interest and enthusiasm on a daily basis to inspire all of us, who have our own problems, to continue on the path of Karate-Doh. It is indeed a privilege to train with him. I am also humbled by the commitment of the students, some who have been with us for less than two months, who gave their all and really stuck it in. Many of them have yet to realise what effect the Gasshuku will have on them. I have been for week-long Gasshuku's previously so I wasnít expecting much from a two-day Gasshuku. I couldnít have been more wrong!!  Gasshukus can have many purposes and for me and many others this Gasshuku tested our physical limits, pushed us beyond our mental barriers and engulfed us with a calming sense of spirituality that we have yet to fathom.  Well done to everyone!