Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Gashaku 2012 - a fantastic weekend


One of our training sessions at Walesby Forest.

Last weekend I attended my first gashaku (training camp). This was held in Walesby Forest Outdoor Activity Centre in Nottinghamshire. About 70 people from our karate organisation descended on Walesby on Friday evening to settle into their accommodation and have their first meal together. 
Paul, stirring things up!


Some of us stayed in the lodges so that we could sleep in proper beds – I need a soft mattress under me after several hours of training! Other more hardy folk (or foolhardy depending on your point of view) chose to camp. Well, they called it camping; it seemed more like ‘Glamping’ to me with their luxury tents and camping beds -not at all what I remember camping to be like when I was younger!
Me and Sensei (trust me to blink at the wrong time!)

Hazel (my instructor’s partner) may not be a karate-ka herself but she definitely has a black belt in organisation, culinary skills and generally making all things happen at the right time and in the right place… and always with a smile and never getting flustered.  She was definitely the lynch pin that helped to hold the whole weekend together and make it such a success.

Gathering at the Robin Hood statue for first training session.

We were blessed with amazing weather – one of the few really nice weekends all summer. This allowed us to train outside on the grass rather than in the marquee. Training began on Saturday morning with a run. A run! I never go running so that came as a bit of a shock. We had to do two laps of a gravel circuit – uphill going out and downhill coming back. The total distance was probably about a mile, so not too far but in a gi and hot sunshine……
Sensei Cool!

Anyway, I was determined that I would complete the run without stopping so as unaccustomed I am to public running I set off at a steady pace, kept my arms relaxed and close to my body and just kept going. It became clear to me after the first lap that running is as much a mental process as a physical one; you just have to tell yourself to keep going. So I was pretty pleased to complete the run – not with the front runners admittedly, but not with the stragglers either.
Sensei demonstrating a 'body hardening' kick to the thigh!
(That's my son he's kicking...grrr!)

After a quick water break we were then straight into our karate session. We divided into 2 groups – over 16s and under 16s. Our group worked on some application drills, breaking them down to work on the details. We practised some soft blocking techniques and worked on some locks. As the grass was quite dry and soft most of us kicked off our trainers to train bare foot. It was great to feel the ground under your feet in this way. Half way through the 2 hour session we had another water break and then switched instructors. We went through a few basics to warm up again and then carried on with some application stuff.


We were pretty hungry after that and Hazel had lunch all ready for us in one of the lodges. After lunch it was time to enjoy one of the afternoon activities that had been arranged by the activity centre itself. So people divided up to either go rafting on the lake (after making their own rafts first!), body boarding which seemed to consist of throwing yourself downhill on a sheet of wet, muddy plastic on a piece of polystyrene into a mucky lake; archery (which looked quite civilised in comparison) or doing an assault course.  My sons both opted for the rafting and my husband did archery.
What, we have to build it first?

Finally on the water. Should that barrel be attached?

Body boarding (I kept calling this water boarding by mistake!)

Apparently the lake was very cold (and mucky).

Archery - Definitely more civilised

The rather tame assault course!

I had booked onto another activity, water zorb balling or is it water ball zorbing? Anyway those giant plastic balls that you get inside and walk over the water in but unfortunately the activity was withdrawn because the balls had holes in or something! So instead, I became the official photographer and walked around to each activity to take photos of everyone else having fun.

There wasn’t a lot of time (about an hour and a half) before the next karate session was due so just time for a cup of tea, a snack and a lie down! I admit it – I had a half hour kip before putting my gi back on…
Fighting like men!

My son beating up children!

Miss Determined face - isn't she great?

The second training session was all about sparring. It was just an hour this time but pretty full on. We spent most of the session free sparring with a variety of different partners. We were mixing with people from different clubs and it was interesting to see the slightly different styles and attitudes to sparring.  We also did a drill where we had to pull a tag out of your partner’s belt before they pulled the one from yours – this was designed to speed up your reactions to get in and out quickly whilst blocking your partners attempts to do the same to you.  The only problem with sparring bare foot on the grass was that you also had to dodge the stones and hedgehog droppings!
Did I mention we had some fun as well?

Looks like they were winning...

We finished about 5.30pm and had a couple of hours before the barbeque commenced - time to shower, change and feel human again. This was also the time you realised how much things hurt and how many new bruises you had acquired!

The barbeque was a very chilled out occasion – why is it that men always take charge of the cooking when it’s a barbeque? We had four giant BBQ’s going to feed the 73 people that were there, so quite a major undertaking. It cooled down a lot as the sun went down so we gathered around 2 large campfires to keep warm (no we didn’t sing camp songs, we’re not boy scouts!) Actually we just talked and socialised, getting to know each other better. And the wine flowed and the beer flowed. What, drinking at a karate camp you say? Don’t worry it was medicinal – we were in pain!
Getting warm around the fire

Drinking our 'medicine'

Look mine's in a cup, not a bottle - I'm so much more civilised don't you think?

Sunday morning required a fairly early start (for a Sunday that is). Training was at 9.00am so we had to be up and breakfasted before then. We were all pretty sore and stiff by now so were hoping we wouldn’t start with another run – a nice gentle stretching session seemed more appealing somehow. Anyway, we set off on the run again - why are karate instructors so sadistic?

I set off on my run with my thighs still aching from the previous day. It was definitely more of a mental challenge this time. In fact I had decided that I might only do the one lap. However, I was following one of our red belt ladies who’s a year older than me and I asked her if she was going to do both laps. She said she was and I suddenly felt ashamed that I was planning to take it easy so I continued to follow her and did the second lap.  I’m so glad I did – I had a much greater sense of achievement for having done so.


The final karate session was a two hour lesson on kata. We were divided into two groups again – black and brown belts in one and everyone else in the other. Our group was taught a completely new kata (new to us that is): Chatan yara kushanku. This kata is actually on our 4th dan syllabus but it is an important competition kata so those in our organisation that are in the kata squad (not me!) learn it at earlier grades just for performance purposes. At 4th dan all bunkai are also required. Anyway, back to the gashaku… This kata is very long so we got about half way through learning the basic pattern. There are several familiar segments in it which we know from the pinan katas and kosokun shiho so this made learning it a little easier but on the whole it is a complicated kata to remember.
Our early attempts at Chatanyara no kushanku

Tyler already knows it - shows doesn't it?

We finished at 11am and had about an hour to change, pack, help clean the lodges and marquee and generally make it look like we’d never been there! We then gathered outside for some final announcements, a few prizes were given out and thank yous said. Hazel had produced a final packed lunch for us before we left which was very appreciated… then it was just farewells with hugs and kisses all round, until next time….

Everyone who went agreed that it was a fantastic weekend …..Roll on gashaku 2013!


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3 comments:

Felicia said...

Sounds like a great time was had by all! Great pics, too, Sue :-)

Steve said...

Okay. So, now I'm wondering how we could do something like that for a bunch of grapplers... hmmm. Sounds like a great time!

It also sounds like your weather is a bit like ours here in Seattle. If you have a minute, check out this skit from a show I remember from my childhood here called "Almost Live." I have a feeling you'll appreciate it. Seattle Summer

SueC said...

Thanks Felicia - it really was a great time. I actually took over 120 photos but I didn't want to bore everyone!

Steve, the advantage of karate is that much of the time you don't need mats to train so it is eminently more portable than a grappling art. I'm sure you could think of a way to do it though. I loved the Seattle Summer clip - definitely relate to it...

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