The Lilleshall National Sports Centre in Newport, Shropshire is one of the UK’s premier venues, a centre of excellence used by the country's elite sporting groups. The venue has hosted the English Shotokan Academy’s annual residential course since 2000, along with two international courses for the Shotokan Ryu Kase Ha. 2020 was a difficult year for everyone within the Karate world and the ESA residential was, like many other things, unable to run. However, 2021 sees the ESA celebrate 30 years and as such it was important to both run the course and to mark the milestone.
Sensei Steve Cattle founded the ESA in 1991, following the teachings and leadership of Sensei Kase. Sadly, both these hugely influential Karateka passed away over the following years, yet the ESA and the SRKHIA have remained dedicated to training and developing the Kase Ha way. Many of Sensei Cattle’s students and friends who followed him into the ESA 30 years ago still teach and train within the organisation, ensuring that his legacy continues within British karate.
The 2021 ESA Residential Course took place over the weekend of 6th, 7th and 8th August 2021, with instruction led by Sensei Michaylo Fedyk (7th Dan), Sensei Geoff Beasley (7th Dan), Sensei Alan Armstrong (6th Dan) and Sensei Roger Hooton (5th Dan). Members travelled from across the UK to attend and were joined by guest Karateka from other groups. Historically people would also attend the ESA residential from across Europe, although travel restrictions meant that this was not possible this year. A noticeable absence was Sensei Dirk Heene (8th Dan) from Belgium, the Kase Ha Chairman, who would normally have been teaching. Whilst Sensei Heene was missed by all, everyone in attendance trained hard to ensure the weekend was a fitting tribute to the 30 years of commitment given by the ESA seniors to maintain both the association and the standard of karate within it.
Training across the weekend divided the attendees into four groups, 3rd Dan and above, 1st and 2nd Dan, Brown belts and Kyu grades. Whilst all the Sensei had their own session plans and their own unique delivery style there was a common theme through the training, linked together by the Kase Ha principles.
The focus of Sensei Fedyk’s sessions was open and closed hand techniques, with the emphasis on breathing and stability, which then developed into combinations delivered with controlled movement and timing to maximise power in conjunction with stability. This commenced with the senior group on the Friday evening, with the combinations being underpinned with the use of Fudo Dachi and hente principles. This was followed by moving onto Chinte kata, delivered with both omote and ura practise, reinforcing the understanding and the Kase Ha approach.
Sensei Fedyk continued his delivery through the weekend working on the same principles, tailored to each individual grade group. The 1st and 2nd dan group were taken through Jion and Heian Sandan kata, keeping the same emphasis on controlled movement, breathing and stability, performing the kata omote and ura. The brown belt group similarly worked on Jion, although this was also supplemented with bunkai practise to develop their understanding of the kata, which could then be emphasised within the subsequent practise of it. The lower kyu grade group benefitted from an introduction to Uke technique on principles from Hachi Ho Kumite before moving on to work on Taikyoku Sandan.
Sensei Beasley worked through principles of ‘O’ Waza and ‘Ko’ Waza, encouraging individuals to consider the application and benefit of techniques from different ranges. His session with the seniors was based very much on Kase Ha, promoting the use of open hands, hente and directional movement from Hachi Ho Kumite. This progressed to partner work, using open Kamae positions and breakaway movement to deal with attacks and develop counters. The emphasis was on the use of Hente counters to reduce reaction time and maximise power taken from the attacker. Each of the eight attacks were practised initially with single techniques before progressing to responding with any application. This was then progressed to counters being blocked and countered, before these too were then blocked and countered, increasing the intensity of the training and promoting instantaneous responses with minimal reaction time. Again, these principles were adapted and delivered across the other grade groups at appropriate levels, along with Geri Waza practise and kata, Tekki for the brown belts and a cross over with Taikyoku Sandan for the Kyu grades.
Breathing and internal control was the message being delivered by Sensei Armstrong within his sessions for all groups, with the emphasis on using the Hara, being grounded, and using controlled movement. These were challenging sessions for everyone and really brought into focus the importance of connection and using the correct breathing to enhance movement and technique. This enabled those training to consider how these elements could come together to maximise efficiency and power within technique. This was progressed into kata, with the emphasis on pelvic lock. What in principle seemed like something that was straightforward and simple proved to be extremely difficult and demanding in practise, illustrating to all how much work still needs to be done in this area.
Sensei Hooton took a dual approach to kata delivery for all the groups, with each session he delivered being based around Ten No Kata but then supported by another grade appropriate traditional kata. The focus of the Ten No Kata was to improve timing, breathing and control, developing what is a difficult kata further by adding additional movement in different directions. Practise of this kata was punctuated with Jiin kata for the seniors, at times slow and controlled, other times fast, whilst interspersed with slow and fast performances of Ten No Kata. This was very demanding and required a lot of digging deep but the contrast of the two very different kata forms provided balance and an opportunity to reflect on technique, timing and fitness.
The 1st and 2nd Dan group benefitted from the same structure of delivery from Sensei Hooton, with the Ten No Kata being interspersed with Jitte. This group also had the opportunity to practise the bunkai for the kata, enabling them to understand more deeply the mechanics and application. The brown belt group again benefitted from being introduced to Ten No Kata, this time punctuated with Tekki Sandan, whilst the kyu grades were introduced to the principle of Tekki with the Shodan kata.
Overall, the four Instructors delivered sessions that were closely linked in principle, providing a consistent message about the emphasis of Kase Ha karate, and yet each session provided a different element for each grade group that was both thought provoking and challenging. This follows on from the training delivered at Lilleshall over the previous twenty years, along with the karate delivered on other ESA courses and within the association’s dojos, keeping alive the legacy of Sensei Kase and Sensei Cattle.
During a break from the formal training there was a range of other sessions delivered during the Saturday afternoon down time. Sensei Beasley delivered Wado Ryu Kata whilst Sensei Steve Thompson (7th Dan) delivered Okinawan kata and Bo practise. Sensei Ian Gillis (5th Dan) did a pad work session and Sensei Hooton provided a Yoga session. These additional sessions were optional but provided a further opportunity for those attending the course to benefit from additional experience.
I first started training in 1969 under Sensei Glen Haslem 3rd Dan who at the time was a senior member of the Karate Union of Great Britain and a member of the British All Styles National Team. Sensei Haslem was a well-respected and renowned karateka.
I first experienced training under Sensei Kase during the early 1980’s. Sensei Kase was often one of the guest senior instructors on the KUGB’s summer and autumn International courses held at Crystal Palace.
My karate mentor and friend was the late, great Sensei Steve Cattle. I trained with him from 1978 as a member of Kirkdale Karate Club and the KUGB. Steve was always interested in enhancing our karate knowledge and skills. Steve was an ardent follower of the teachings of Sensei Kase and in 1991 made a monumental decision to leave the KUGB to follow Sensei Kase. Of course, my loyalties were to remain with Steve and embark on the remarkable journey that Sensei Kase was to offer.
I followed Sensei Kase and his teachings from 1990 on an annual basis to many courses throughout Europe and as a member of the then WKSA and now the KSKA. Every course I attended was eagerly awaited and like a new experience, always building on the skills and knowledge of the Kase Ha system. The last training with Sensei was 2003 in Andorra, a truly memorable event.
My teaching experience dates back to 1973 when as a 4th kyu I started my own small club. Throughout the years I have enjoyed my own self-development as a coach and enjoy very much being able to pass on my experience to karateka willing to strive towards improvement in both mind and body.
I believe it is possible. Within the Shihankai we have a group of people dedicated to making this happen. It is down to all of us to ensure we deliver and further develop the teachings of Sensei Kase. We must consider it our responsibility to ensure our own students are able to do this once we are gone.
In 1999 I went back to university as a mature student and my core study was in coaching principles. I learned so much about the scientific principles of coaching. Having said that I am a serious believer in the individual character and qualities we each have. Some people, despite good practical ability, will for various reasons not be able to pass on the Kase Ha system methodology to best effect. I believe good coaching is about patience and humbleness, we need to have empathy with all who stand in front of us. Sensei Kase treated us all as his family and at the right moment had time for everyone, this is the way.
For example, the open hand allows energy to enter through the body, and to root it to the ground and stabilize around the centre of gravity. To understand the principles of Kase Ha Ryu overnight is an impossibility. It is only in recent years that I have begun to truly understand the system despite regular training from 1990. I think the Kase Ha system allows people to find their own strengths and weaknesses; at this point an individual may make decision on which areas to progress more. I personally like the open hand techniques delivered with breathing variation and the strong rooting sensation connected with correctly timed application.
I was surprised when approached by Sensei Heene. I asked the question why me? I was unsure of why I was chosen as although I was a regular attendee on courses throughout the years, I still felt I was on a vast learning curve and indeed still do. Sensei Heene assured me that it was as much about personal character as it was prowess on the dojo floor, you are chosen because Sensei Kase has seen you develop over the years and knows you to be a caring and family orientated individual. I certainly am very proud of the fact I was chosen and will always endeavour to do my best for the furtherance of Kase Ha Ryu and all members of the KSKA.
The organisation was created as the English Shotokan Academy by my late Sensei Steve Cattle. Since the loss of Steve, I have strived to maintain his vision. There have been many obstacles along the way which at times have been soul destroying. Perhaps one of the best characteristics an individual can develop via martial arts practice is the determination to carry on whatever barriers one faces. Having a core of like-minded friends is also a key factor. I now have a developing group of karateka that are regularly attending specialised Academy training sessions, which are progressively designed to build on the principles of Kase Ha Ryu. Course reports are available via KSKA newsletter or the English Shotokan Academy website: www.englishshotokan.net
There are many factors. The main factor is having a genuine interest in the Traditional methodology of practice set out by Sensei Kase. Other key factors include perseverance, regular training, training with like-minded people, gaining the correct input from senior karateka and the understanding that practice is not short term: It is a “Life-time Study”.
Throughout my discussion I have mentioned many different aspects connected with the future evolution of the KSKA. We all need to work together and be diligent in the practice of the many associated criteria of KSKA system development. I have listed thirty-two different criteria to work on through my ESA scheduled progressive training courses, this is not an exhaustive list and as we all progress and understand the system more, the list will grow. We all need to continue working together as the family group and be prepared to accept slightly different teaching methodology from senior individuals. This is ok if we all strive to reach the same outcome.
One time whilst training in Frieburg (Germany) and whilst practicing Tekki Sandan, Sensei noticed I was making a movement incorrectly and pulled me out to the front of class to demonstrate to all, the correct application of the technique. Whilst making my way to the front of class Sensei observed that I looked very worried about my mistake and that I had an obvious fear of what was going to happen. As I arrived at the front of class Sensei came close to me and whispered into my ear the words “Don’t worry Mike, I only show you the correct way”. That was a relief and was what Sensei was always trying to do with all of us. My memories of Sensei Kase are many. I was asked many times by Sensei Kase to demonstrate at the front of class and in fact if I wasn't asked, I was always disappointed because I wanted to face new challenges.
Karate for me is a continuing life-long study, trying to progress even as we get older and not just on the physical side of study, there are many benefits of practice, but the main point is trying to become a better human being and development of respect for self and others.
As a dedicated student of Sensei Cattle there was no hesitation in following the path he was leading us all on. The untimely death of good friend and Sensei made me and the current executive determined to carry on the good work and make the ESA a great organisation to be part of and very proud of.
So many great memories but the one outstanding memory is how he looked after all of his students. I was out of work for ten years with very little income, that didn't stop Steve coming to my dojo once a month and not taking any instructor fees. In fact, after training we would go to the local pub to chat and Steve would insist on paying for drinks. There were also many memories of our trips abroad, which I share with my students in leisure time.
Two views, one is sport, the other is Budo. The main emphasis of many organisations is sport karate, but it is a short-term practice of karate and for me puts far too much emphasis on winning. Budo practice relates to lifelong study and development as a human being.
Too much Politics and self-importance by various leading Karate organisations is stopping the real progressive development of karate and the values it has to offer, only time will tell if karate as we know it will survive.
Not really, other than to thank the hard core of dedicated karateka within the ESA who continue to do their best for all members of the ESA.
Steve Cattle started martial arts at the age of 12 years, with judo in 1960 then Karate in 1962. He was awarded his Shodan by Sensei Enoeda five years later. He was a member of the British team from 1966, until he stopped competing in 1989. He was one of Kase Sensei’s closest students, commenting “Sensei Kase is planning a system of Shotokan Karate which will take us not into the 1990’s but into the next century” Sensei Kase awarded him his 6th dan in 1994. He died suddenly the year after.