Jikishin At Euro-Budo, Halle, April 2017
Report by Peter McCarney
It was Joyous! The Chef had come in from the Kitchen to ask us how we wanted our Moules Marinere cooked, which is to say, 3 large individual pressure-cookers filled with mussels. Shihan Graham answered in impeccable Spanish, which would have been perfect except that we were in a French Restaurant in Dunkirk. It was lunchtime so we must be in France; we’d start our day with Breakfast in Belgium. The sophisticated Chris Carter had opted for Poached Eggs but it might have been Eggs Benedict; I’m no epicure and it would have been lost on me. I selected Welsh Hamburger, which was a mystery and I wondered if it might be Lamb. One couldn’t be sure. I was actually served an excellent Hamburger with a Cheese surround. Very clever these French Chefs and the pommes de terre were a delight. We’d had our choice of restaurant as it was 1st May, and France was probably indoors watching the May Day Parade along the Champs Elysees in Paris.
Shihans Graham Sargeant and Ricky Izod, 7th Dan, had led the Jikishin team to the Euro-Budo event in Halle allowing us to join Sensei Bart Van Hoef who hosted the event that had drawn other Teams and Masters from the Baltics, Belgium, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Romania, Spain and more. Capt Christopher T. Carter had taken command of the steering wheel of the Team bus and collected us all from various sites in sunny Essex. The Orsett Cock was definitely one location and from where both Shihans had boarded and then we were off to the Channel Tunnel. This was a novel experience for me and very impressive in how we were transported from Blighty to the Old Enemy of La Belle France. We almost collected the lovely Border Agency lady at Transport Control. It must have been the known charm of the bloke riding shotgun to Capt Chris, who was not letting go of that steering wheel anytime soon. We must record that there was one International incident on the Crossing. It followed us all the way to Halle. Unfortunately one of the younger team members had urgent need of the, er, ‘facilities’ and this led to, um, a rather large pipe having been misplaced, so we’ll leave it there to spare embarrassment.
Once we got to Dworp and found our Accommodation, it was very pleasantly situated amid a glade in the local forest. A perfectly functional community facility which included dining facilities and a bar complete with Table Football and a giant Connect 4, of which more later.
Senseis Bart Van Hoef met us and outlined the Programme. This revealed that we had a free day on Saturday, as the Team Demos were scheduled for the evening. This allowed us a great opportunity to take it as a Day Out. We thought about visiting the Great War Memorials but realised that we’d be there for too short a visit; all of them call for the Respect of a longer visit than we had time for so we’ll save that for another visit. We thought about Ghent and we’d been joined by the Recce Team, who’d got there ahead of us. Step forward Senseis Colin Humbes, 6th Dan, Mick Morrison, Tony Park, 3rd Dan, and young Ryan Davis. They’d thoroughly enjoyed themselves and recommended it. However, with a fear that we’d run out of time, we elected to take the train to Brussels and then use the Metro. We got to Grand Place, which has been refurbished and is a great spectacle for all tourists. We then took the Tourist Trail to visit the Manniken Pis. The clue is in the title. As we got there, we were among a crush of like-minded tourists. I heard an elderly American chap exclaim: “Is that it?!!” I replied “Yep, that’s what I thought when I saw it the first time some years ago”. “I coulda had lunch!” he said. “A great idea” was my reply. We all then went to Lunch minus our American friend. Some went for waffles with creams and fruit and lots of nice things. The rest of us went to a Bar-Restaurant and had an excellent Steak and Frites. Chris Carter, of fastidious and educated palate, went for his own choice. I think he specified “Rare” for the Steak; the choice of a natural aristocrat, who knows what he wants. After such an excellent repast, we wandered in and out of the shops. Chris spotted some apparel and we followed him in whilst he scrutinised his intended purchase. I noticed an excellent jacket, in various sizes and nearly passed out when I saw the Euro500+ price tag. The Man of Refinement that is Sensei Chris Carter didn’t blanch at such piffling things as cost and bought what he came for – I just can’t remember what. Anyway, now we knew him to be a Man of Exquisite Taste and followed him to the Chocolate Shop. La Premiere Chocolate Shop, donchaknow. Monsieur Carter said “I won’t lead you wrong. Trust me, these are the best”. I bought a gold box full of chocs and he was right. They were superb. I paid about £20 and my Sister-in-Law, who knows of these things assured me that they would cost £50 in St John’s Wood. Yes, apparently there’s a shop there from the same chain.
We returned to Dworp and had a great evening meal and then headed for the terrific Sports Hall in Halle. We’d been here before for the Euro-Budo competition, when Sensei Carrie Bywater won Gold in the Ladies Random Attacks, with Sensei Emma Dickins as Uke. The superb main hall was in use so we all assembled in the excellent basement hall, which has a full set of Judo Mats and bleacher seating.
We witnessed our friends and their Teams perform in a variety of ways. Some, like Sensei Katerine Van Hoef led children onto the mat, and they did sets of Breakfalls in dynamic fashion with a theme running through. Sensei Luc Cogneau and this group of young ones did a similar demo. All were very enjoyable displays for visitors and spectators. Other Teams led by Senseis Guus de Laure, Florin, Massimo and more were aimed at the adult audience and involved high level Takedowns, disarms, Throws, Katas. As we enjoyed these demos, it also had the effect of putting us on notice. We hoped to please and to enthuse, and perhaps, fire some imagination in our audience of jitsuka and spectators alike.
Gathering outside the arena, it was to be our turn, as we were toward the end of the displays. Our team included adults, young teenagers, one lady and a number of notable injuries between us; this had forced one change to the Samurai Kata team, in which were to lead off. Entering to large applause, the MC cued the music drawn from “War Of The Worlds”, and suddenly we were away. It can be difficult to articulate the Movement against the audience reaction, as we were focused on the music, our partner, the group and the need to maintain Timing so that we performed as a Team Unit rather than show 3 disparate Pairs out of sync with the Team. The Kata shows big Throws, Strikes, Blocks, Locks and Breakfalls. We were all of different heights and well-being owing to long-term injury, so it was a both a Test and an Aspiration for the Team. Well, all I can say is that from memory as we were in the act and effected certain Throws and Breakfalls, we achieved Unit cohesion as we landed as One on the mat. Yes, a single “Thwack!” as 3 bodies hit the mat simultaneously rather than a staccato “Thwack, Thwack, Thwack!” We could hear a great Cheer and applause from the audience, who clearly appreciated the symmetry and the sheer difficulty of this action. We finished to great applause as they had clearly enjoyed it.
The MC thought we’d finished. We hadn’t; Shihan Ricky Izod had already donned his Japanese Mask to complement his Hakama. The MC checked himself and the whole Team took their places for our exposition of the Naginata Kata. We rei’d to the mat and Shihan Rick stepped 3 paces forward of us and knelt on the floor with Naginata held perpendicular. The music started: “Two Tribes” by Frankie Goes to Hollywood. He demonstrated the whole kata solo. The Team then performed in slow motion fashion as Shihan Rick showed the Intention. He won. Finally, the Team executed the Kata in real time; Shihan Rick then executed the whole Team. Again, this drew great applause from the audience. We were pleased to have been able to make a contribution to the Event and our hard work had borne fruit under the expert guidance of our Shihans, Graham Sargeant, Ricky Izod and Chris Sheppard at East Tilbury.
The following day saw us all reassemble on the mat in the upper hall for the seminar work, which ran from 0930 to c.1700. We had misgivings about such a long training day but it was expertly planned with breaks both mid-morning and mid-afternoon in addition to a lunch break.
As ever, we witnessed excellent instruction for the many guest senseis. On our mat, Sensei Steven Van Hauwermeirin, 6th Dan, opened with knife techniques. He explained context and demonstrated the same to show Evasion, Control and a Finish. He then moved on to show a very realistic scenario of how to meet a potential knife attack. In this, he was separating from Technique per se and focusing on a Self-Protection Mindset and with Stance and Posture the starting point to drive off an Attacker wielding a knife. To understand this better, go to a class and train.
Sensei Florin came onto our mat and demonstrated a clever variation of a standard ‘dumping’ Throw. Sensei Chris T. Carter was doubtful about the efficiency of this particular technique and asked me to act as Uke. I agreed. I soon found out my error. Sensei Chris performed it very well and I was ‘dumped’ so effectively I was unable to move once I hit the mat. This prompted Sensei Florin to check I was OK. I Thanked him and waved him away assuring him I’d be OK by Thursday….Mr Carter then reflected on the quality of the technique and now knew that it worked very well. If you’re training at the Welcome Club or East Tilbury with the Masters, ask him to show it to you ;-)
Amidst the flow of very senior instructors – with some great Techniques and Instruction – it’s worth pointing out the high level of our own Instructors; Senseis Graham, Ricky and Colin. The latter used Sensei Mick Morrison, 3rd Dan, as uke and demonstrated a clever set of Techniques which ran through a number of iterations in which he met each individual attack, controlled his uke and all in working from the Left Side to the Right Side of the uke. It was very much like a Salsa and to witness such made it very clear that high level martial arts can often seem like a Dance. “Flow” being the key and the ability to be ‘in the moment’ and alive to Threat, Attack, Opportunity to Counter. Senseis Graham and Ricky were superb, as always showing a set of Techniques that enthralled. I know this because I was also able to watch them teaching on other mats. I also noticed “Elvis” enter the building and Sensei Ricky got to shake a leg in the process. Curious? Well, it’s a Technique that Sensei Graham sometimes shows on the mat and this was one of those occasions.
The last instructor on our mat was Hanshi Alain Sailly. He was Excellent. From an Attack, he was able to meet and repel with a high Strike to the Head, pivot and Strike the Brachial, draw through the Abdomen and return with a Palm Strike. Don’t try that at home kids, I’ve deliberately left things out…What impressed me was the Whole Body Movement with implied Power informing the Blocking, Striking and more. It also reminded me of a similar scenario from our own Hanshi Brian Herbert, 9th Dan, some years before. How so? Well, it made plain the sheer Quality of a Hanshi; the Movement, the Power and more. So, ‘steal with your eyes’ kids, it’s the way to learn. As you progress in your Training, so does your Understanding grow and Skills will emerge that you’ve seen, internalised and practised. Then you’ll ask yourself a question: Where did that come from? Well, you may have trained it at seminars like this or at the Jikishin Nationals Course and Competition.
One thing to be aware of was that at the mid-morning Break, Sensei Steven spoke to me and praised our Katas, which he’d seen on Sensei Nessie VdE’s video. He also observed that “it had taken a lot of work”. During the Lunch Break, I was out of the terrace taking in the Sun and Sensei Bart Van Hoef came over and did the same; he praised our katas and, again, observed that it had ‘taken a lot of work’. High praise and kind words from two senior senseis.
Anyway, back to that Connect 4….well, we’d gathered in the Bar at the Facility Accommodation and enjoyed Tea, Coffee and Cake with other delicacies and a large variety of beers; one of which is local and only produced for a couple of months in the year. Beau, Graham and Tyler were playing Connect 4 on a Giant set. It was huge and so it drew everyone’s attention. Beau proved rather adept and was capitalising on errors from his opponent. This was the game for me. Diligently I studied the Form and stepped up ready to thrill and amaze all. I met Beau’s challenge with gusto! I was confident. Ready. Implacable. I was computing the options on that matrix. Calculating. Beaten. What?! How in the Name of All that is Holy did that happen?!! Whilst blithely blocking an Attack, I’d also set up a potential Counter-Attack, when Beau answered by slotting in the winning disc…I couldn’t believe it. I must have been distracted by the Table Football or something…..Sacre Bleu. I’d lost. I had no answer, so I went to bed to dry the quiet tears in private. At 3AM, finding myself downstairs in the bar and quite alone, the Connect 4 (Giant Set) still showed Beau as the Victor. Blimey.
Still, I was compensated by that large Breakfast the following morning and that Welsh Hamburger in Dunkirk J
Thanks to Shihans Ricky, Graham, Senseis Colin, Tony, Andy, Mick, Chris, Sophia, to Nathan, Tyler, Beau, Ryan for making it such a memorable visit. Thanks to Sensei Bart Van Hoef, Steven Van Hauwemeiran, and the many Masters who gave of their knowledge and skill so willingly. They gave us great ideas and encouragement. Looking forward to our next visit to Belgium and that Giant Connect 4 set…..