On 17th May Mizuno Sensei, Ben, Elaine and Will traveled from London, to Prague to Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad) for the annual Czech seminar.
This was the second time Will had visited, and the first time for Ben, and we were really looking forward to a good weekend of training. We were also feeling a bit nervous about our shakujo demonstration, but what surprised us most, was the whole learning experience over the course of the weekend.
We arrived in Karlovy Vary late on Friday evening, and like last year Miroslav put us up in his police station. We spent the night in their small dojo, sleeping on tatami mats with thai-pads for pillows, surrounded by all kinds of training gear, from fake guns and knives to handcuffs and nightsticks - it was a police training room after all.
The following morning, we arrived at the school gym hall across the road, and it was already full with kenshi from Prague, and Karlovy Vary’s adult and kid’s classes. It was great to see a lot of familiar faces since last year, and lots of new ones too.
Sensei Tom lead an energetic warm up, followed by a brief kihon (basics) from Mizuno Sensei, before he and Ben took a small group of white and yellow belts back over the road to the police station dojo to take their gradings. Will was left to take the remainder through the rest of kihon, and despite being thrown in at the deep end with his first ever full kihon, managed to pull off an in depth session on kata and tai sabaki. No mean feat with our limited grasp of the Czech language.
Both afternoons followed the same format, with the kyu grades splitting into two groups, and Ben and Will teaching a group each, while Mizuno Sensei drilled Tom, Miroslav and Elaine on their dan grade syllabuses. It was a learning experience for us both as much as for the kenshi. We were struck by the importance of clear demonstration and use of body language to explain techniques across the language barrier, as well as the challenge of keeping a large group of students and children all engaged and interested.
The Czech kenshi all had a great attitude and enthusiasm, which made the whole weekend all the more rewarding. The improvement from last year was really noticeable, which just goes to show all the hard training everyone has been putting in, and we’d like to extend our thanks for how welcome they made us feel.
And of course we can’t finish without mentioning a bit about the social side: lots of Czech meat and Czech beer were involved. Enough said!
Will & Ben (City and Mayfair Branches)