Toodyay Gashuku 2013

Man, I’m getting some major deja vu. I’m pretty sure I’ve written this blog several times before. How awesome!

Anyway, last Friday (5th May) I drove up to Toodyay for the Academy of Traditional Fighting Art’s miniature gashuku (or more correctly, intensive training camp). In truth, I feel that this gashuku was even easier than the previous ones. Yet, when I think back to my first gashuku, we did almost exactly the same sort of things. Looking back, it seems that I have grown somewhat over the past two years. I still felt the tiredness, the cold, the muscle aches, the hunger, the lack of time etc., but this time ’round I didn’t feel the need to draw attention to it. I accepted it as a natural, and very good, part of training.

For the most part I’m sad to say I was struggling with feeling sorry for myself. It was only during the second day that I started to really enjoy those long walks from the caravan park to Kancho’s house, pushing through the scrub and dodging spiders and falling into thorn bushes. I made a resolution on the Saturday to stop complaining, a habit which was far too easy to fall into, and I only partially kept to it. Generally though, I pushed myself pretty hard throughout the weekend, though I’m sure I could have pushed myself harder. I was strongly reminded though that while it sounds like a really romantic, adventurous idea to push yourself to the limits all day long, it’s probably a smarter idea to pace yourself so you don’t run out of energy by ten-o’clock. Just because I have energy doesn’t mean I need to burn it. This is a crucial lesson which I am only now starting to appreciate.

In terms of revelations, I had a number. Not quite as many as that first gashuku at Lake Navarino, but several worth noting. I realised the importance of learning gradually, being patient about becoming competent with individual concepts before trying to string them together or advance them. I learned about timing steps and hand techniques together, an issue which (as my email records remind me) stumped me a year ago. I learned how to use my hips much more effectively as part of staged activation in conjunction with my forward momentum, both by turning them away (gyaku kaiten) and turning them into (jun kaiten) an attack. I learned a lot about sanchin kata, both Miyagi and Higaonna variations, though I have much more to go. I honed my executions of the jo exercises, kumijo 3 and 4, as well as learned the new kumijo 6. I also learned the important lesson that teachers don’t teach you anything; rather, they help you to learn. Knowledge is most powerful when you internalise it and own it, rather than having it bestowed unto you.

Finally, we had a grading at Toodyay to conclude our gashuku. At first I felt like I could probably skip a grade, go from Brown 1 to maybe Brown 3. But then I realised that I didn’t even know all of the syllabus requirements for Brown 2, and I spent the afternoon cramming. My sanchin were shoddy, my embu unpracticed, my tuide unrefined and my kumijo unpracticed. But you know? To my great surprise, I really nailed the bunkai (applications of techniques). Kancho paid me the high compliment of saying “That was the best seiunchin bunkai we’ve seen in a long time.” I also got some compliments for my kata performance, flowing momentum, attitude and leadership throughout the weekend. Rob and Connor also performed outstandingly well at the grading, so well done to them!

And, in addition to all the training, we were also permitted to practice some knife-throwing, which filled me with terrible elation. Tania, Kancho’s wife, was amazing, and landed 8 out of the 12 knives thrown. I struggled much more, but am proud to say that on two different occasions, I got all three of my knives to stick in the board. It was exquisitely satisfying.

All in all, a really wonderful experience which I’m looking forward to repeating later this year if we have a longer one. I’m rather hoping it’ll be frosty cold so I’ll get the chance to use the gloves, hat and jackets I’ve since bought in anticipation of needing them, but sadly neglected due to unseasonably warm weather. Osu!


I love that Tim looks like he’s reaching for a weapon in the background!


One of my favourite parts of gashuku is sharing a meal and having a good conversation after a hard day of training.


Shortly before I tapped him on the head with my staff!

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