Back around 2005, 2006 I was sat on the Hovercraft about to travel over to the Isle of Wight. I was heading over to train on a weekend course with my good friend Stacey Crowe from the SEKU Portsmouth Dojo.
As always, we were ridiculously early as I like to be certain I will get to training ahead of time. Stace and I were looking forward to training with Sensei Aidan Trimble of the FSK who was leading the course for Mark Elliott.
Stace turned to me and asked, ‘have you ever trained with Sensei before?’
‘No’ I replied.
But I had of course read some of his books and was a fan of the Applied Karate Video series he had produced with Sensei Hazard.
Croweman then began to recount some tales from courses at the Brighton dojo and some friendly competitions where SEKU had travelled to compete with Aidan’s teams. Sadly, these were all before my time.
Stace then said ‘you can’t miss Sensei as he’s a good-looking *!* with blond hair’ at which point I jokingly looked around to realise that Sensei was sat across the aisle from us a and only a few rows away!
I nudged Stace at which point he sunk into his chair. I don’t think Sensei had heard the conversation, but it was funny.
I can’t remember if we said hello when we disembarked the Hover, but I can remember that Stace told me to make sure I volunteered to be Sensei’s demo man. Stace always loved seeing me take a few shots, but he was keen that I experienced Sensei’s power and ability first-hand.
It was a great course and Sensei invited Stace and I to dinner with him and Mark at a local Chinese that evening. I was happy just to be there and just kept quiet while everyone caught up and shared stories. I had an excellent time.
When I returned to my home dojo the following Wednesday my teacher Merv asked me how the course had gone. I remember telling him that I had really enjoyed it and that I wished I had met Sensei a few years sooner. If I had I would have chosen the Nottingham University for my degree. Then I could have regularly trained at his dojo!
I have trained with Sensei on several courses since and I am always impressed by his karate ability, but equally by his relaxed manner and humorous approach. He is great fun to be around and still leaves you certain of his ability and experience.
When it was clear that lockdown would ease, and we would get back into our dojos I approached Aidan and asked if he would teach a course at our dojo. I was thrilled when he said yes, and I set to work on the detail.
Strangely it proved a real challenge to get a hall for two consecutive days, so I confirmed a Saturday course for November and booked Sensei’s hotel as a priority. I then set to work on one of my favourite pre-course details (the poster) and drew up a guest list.
When I started sending my email invites it was clear from the enthusiastic responses that our wider karate community had really missed getting together on courses. My spreadsheet started to fill, and I was certain we would have a good showing on the day.
If the last eighteen months has taught me anything it has been the importance of remaining flexible and open to change. Two weeks after confirming everything my venue contacted me to advise that there had been a mistake and I could no longer have the hall. Nightmare!
I put my thinking head on and worked on an alternative with the school.
It wasn’t my first choice, but it would have to do. It just meant that numbers would have to be a little lower than I’d planned, but otherwise everything was still workable.
Then with COVID numbers rising a few of the clubs’ seniors were unable to attend while they isolated or had to work to cover for ill colleagues. Thankfully Club Captain Mike Smallpage was able to train despite it being his wedding anniversary (Thanks Beth aka Reebok …. We love you!).
I arrived early and set up the hall with the help of Beth and Felix before teaching our Saturday family class. I was thrilled to see my good friend Sensei Kevin Slaney who had driven down from Inverness. Sensei Slaney and I first met on a course at The Dojo in Nottingham with Sensei’s Trimble and Hazard back in 2008. Kevin popped in to say hi before I taught, and we had a brief catch up.
The Family class was buzzing, and I was in a good mood anticipating a full day of karate.
After the class a few members arrived early, and I set them to work with another tidy up.
I really enjoy hosting courses with instructors I admire, but my students will attest that I am very particular about detail. I like things to be just so! Thankfully they are mostly used to my OCD ways! The hall was ready, I was ready….. now we needed Sensei and a willing audience.
Sensei Trimble arrived at the same time as Mark Elliott and his students from the Isle of Wight. Sensei Elliott suffered a stroke during lockdown and has been remarkably courageous with his fightback to health. His students are supporting him very well and Ian and Aidan (Top Knot) who joined us for the training were a welcome addition to the class.
Sensei Elliott had several books for Sensei Trimble to sign and in his normal good humour Aidan asked me to take a photo to show Sensei Hazard how hard he was working signing their books.
(Images Courtesy of Bernard Rose Photography)
The dojo began to fill with the Petersfield and Knowle members as well as guests from Brighton, the Isle of Wight and of course Julie and Steve from Morpeth. For anyone who knows Julie I am sure you will agree it is hard to imagine a more formidable female instructor. It is also a giggle when she repeatedly strikes Steve in the groin! 😊
The dojo was soon full, and we set to work on a kihon version of Kaeshi-Ippon, then a buzzing class on Sochin and its Bunkai. We then finished with a class on Kikomi (Side thrust kick).
I have been working hard with my dojos to improve our side thrust kicks for some time. I feel it is a technique that some dojos and student’s neglect. I had asked Sensei to teach it as I have quite simply never seen anyone else as prolific as Sensei with Kikomi in competition….. especially off the lead leg!
When it came to holding the kick shield for Sensei’s demos, I slightly regretted my request 😊.
(It’s funny how happy my students look when I am on the receiving end for a change).
The three hours flew by and the energy in the dojo was extremely positive. Everyone had a wonderful time.
In the evening Sensei and I went for a Chinese meal and were joined by some of my Senior students who train in my Saturday Breakfast club classes. We all chatted and had a wonderful night.
As I began to write this article it dawned on me how much had changed since I first met Sensei and sat and listened over a Chinese meal.
Although it may appear that I have been prolific with my karate work throughout lockdown I did in-fact struggle to begin with.
After my Dads funeral in March 2019 I entered my ‘dark dressing gown days’. Essentially a few weeks where I sat in the corner of my lounge sad and low wondering what to do with my life, craving some inspiration.
That inspiration came in the form of an online class with Sensei Trimble who taught for the SKIF online group ‘Lounge becomes Dojo’.
I cleaned my home dojo and trained on that course and for the first time since losing my Dad I was present in the moment and enjoyed the pure expression that comes with karate training.
In that class Sensei Trimble demonstrated the importance of a Sensei you respect, trust and want to be around. It inspired me to reboot and honour my Dads memory through my teaching. That class helped me redefine my purpose.
It was fitting that I invite Sensei to teach at Petersfield.
Without his example I may not have had a dojo to come back to !!!
To all that came and trained…. Thanks for the support. We will do it again.