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  • Writer's pictureHarry Penson

Break it up into Chunks

Going into training and preparation for second Dan I was nervous, because I hadn’t graded in six years.

My mind set was to be clear and intentional while learning each section of the syllabus.

In order to draw from what I needed during each stage of the grading.

Among many solid pieces of advice Sensei Powell aided me with during my preparation, the main one that stuck with me was to break it up into chunks. This was to ensure that on the day I wasn’t overwhelmed.

When it’s time to do Kihon focus only on that, when it’s time to carry out the Kata section don’t think about the other components.

Finally, when it’s Kumite time channel your thought process and effort into that.

Going into the Kihon I had to present four combinations of various kicks, punches, strikes and blocks. The emphasis on this was to not rush the combos. Rather to demonstrate the finish of each technique using power efficiently, so I didn’t tire too quickly.

I thoroughly enjoyed the variety, especially the jumping kicks into explosive strikes. I wanted my performance to illustrate my improvement since first Dan.

During the kata section I had to demonstrate an understanding of my chosen kata being Nijushiho.

This is paired with a choice from the panel of Senseis, of either Bassi Sho or Kanku Sho. I have fond memories six month prior, learning each kata with Sensei Powell, while warming up before teaching at Highfield and Brookham School.

I practised these katas in the cold term times, in the warm term times and there was a lesson that I learnt in that. This lesson was of being diligent in training from first Dan to second Dan no matter the circumstances.

Furthermore in my study of Nijushiho I discovered it’s nuances of performance whilst remaining relaxed akin to waves crashing on a beach.

This is something which is in contrast to that of Bassi Sho or Kanku Sho which bare more resemblance to explosive energised movements like a dynamite fuelled explosion.

I loved that I could incorporate Yoko Geri Kikomis from Nijushiho into my Bunkai. This section along with the final circular blocks are the peices I chose to showcase. These sections demonstrate the flamboyant nature of the kata and technical elevation of a second Dan. (In my opinion)

Among my opponents within the kumite presentation, there were many capable seniors I had to face. So I knew more than ever, I had to bring my A-game. In that same notion I had to show a transition of spirit from a young lad into a man, (I took my first Dan at fourteen and second Dan at twenty).

I loved putting my ability on showcase during the set sparring. I remember going into a flow state and really having fun. This was a result of the countless hours I committed during the first post lockdown sessions of drilling the attack set ups of Jyu Ippon Kumite.

I was happy to have my progress in set-kumite be a tangible product of my commitment in the uncertain times of multiple lockdowns.

The final element of the test was the pad drills and I knew I had to remain focused like a soon to be second Dan would. Moreover, to stay composed and to not peak in my performance too soon.

From that thought process I remained calm demonstrating a Mawashi Geri, Yoko Geri Kikomi and Haito on the pads. I recall giving every last ounce of effort I had into those techniques with a loud kiai like it was yesterday.

Trying to present that I was worthy of second Dan!

Ultimately, from my perspective the journey to second Dan, meant deploying a clear understanding of showing your personal refinement of your unique flair and capabilities.

What’s more, turning up with the calm but defiant intention of putting on a display which dares the Sensei’s to fail your clarification and honing of Karate.

A personal journey of Karate that you’ve sat with and persevered with and made more and more your own, each belt you progress.

Osu. Harry.

(Well done Harry. Great progress made and I am proud of your development. Onwards to the next challenge. Osu. Matt)

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