The Role of Teaching in the Development of a Martial Artist

Foreword

By Hanshi Howard Lipman (9th Dan Kyokushin, 7th Dan Kobudo)

Sensei Alex Lloyd, Hanshi Howard Lipman & Sempai Jasper Choi, at a training session after the grading.

Alex Lloyd was promoted to Sandan – Sensei – after 13 continual years of training. Alex is well respected by all those people who have grades above and below. He has become an excellent teacher and has an in-depth knowledge of Kyokushin, its history, techniques and principles, as were taught by Sosai Mas Oyama. He now takes his place in the dojo within the ranks of Sensei in the KIMAA organisation.

Sensei Alex is also Nidan (2nd Dan) in the International Hokama Kobudo Organisation, and will attempt his Sandan in Kobudo on 22 July 2018.

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An essay written by Sensei Alex Lloyd for his Sandan Grading (June 2018)

Introduction

Sensei Alex Lloyd, with junior grades following, during the senior grading.

The journey of the karateka is always one of self-improvement, for “Behind each triumph are new peaks to be conquered,” in the words of Kyokushin founder Sosai Mas Oyama. Junior students have a singular focus of becoming better martial artists, while a teacher must have dual focus: still pursuing self-betterment for their own ongoing progression and, more importantly, the moulding of their students from beginners into martial artists. I have found instructing classes integral to my technical development as a martial arts practitioner, expanding my understanding of Karate beyond its sporting component, and that instructing has had a marked effect on my personal growth. This essay seeks to explore the importance of a teacher being a good role model, having technical proficiency and an understanding of Karate spirituality; and how the pursuit of these as a teacher further develops one to another level of martial artistry. It is my strong belief that the role of Sensei or Shihan is beyond one of just technical mastery, but is the ultimate embodiment of budo.

2. The teacher as a role model

A good teacher is a role model to their students. The foundation of this principle begins for the white belt in their first lesson. We are taught early in Kyokushin that the student must aspire to be like the senior grade next to them. This continues through the lines of the class to the senior student, who aspires to the skills of the instructor out the front. In Kyokushin, a student’s progress is measured against a standard benchmark (as defined by the syllabus) as well as on an individual basis, against each student’s own ability and improvement over time. While the ultimate test may be against oneself in a grading, a senior student or instructor serves as a beacon for the junior’s next goal. This means that the quality of the kyokushinkai stems from the teacher. If the Sensei’s standards are low, then the Sempai only has so much they can pursue. Subsequently, the next student can only improve to a limited degree, and so on down the class. Our hierarchical system of training depends on a high, strong capstone at the top of the pyramid. This in turn will produce strong students; strong foundations. The highest responsibility of a teacher is always to live up to their part as a role model.

Sensei Alex during his Sandan grading.

This should not be seen as a burden or pressure. “One must try, everyday, to expand one’s limits,” said Sosai. Junior students have a reprieve that only their fellow kohai and the Sensei’s eyes are watching them. The further one advances through the class, the more students are watching, both to copy technique from and also to chase to try and surpass. This is an additional motivation to always train at one’s best rather than just go through the motions. This is felt to the greatest degree by the teacher, for all eyes are on them: “We will look upwards to wisdom and strength,” – the Sensei must be the source of wisdom and strength to which the Dojo Kun refers.

Knox senior students in 2008: James Butterworth, Alex Lloyd & Jonathan Lee.

I began teaching classes as a senior high school student at 3rd Kyu, through the Knox Karate program. At first my instructor, Hanshi Howard Lipman, would remain in the class – to oversee me and correct the techniques of students where I missed their mistakes which, at first, was frequently! I was certainly nervous when I started instructing, for I had a number of capable senior students whom I regarded as having more natural sporting ability, coordination and technical flair than me; not living up to being the role model, especially technically, was of great concern. Comparing me to the instructors who usually taught the Knox classes at the time – Hanshi, Sensei Allan Engelin and Sensei James Sidwell – would clearly showcase an obvious disparity in ability. But the responsibility of teaching drove me to train harder and more often. I increased my level of practise at home, as well as the number of classes I attended outside the Knox program. Teaching made me work harder at my techniques, as well as improving my self-confidence. In turn, as I felt the students’ respect for me increase, this only positively reinforced my training. After a time, Hanshi was happy to occasionally do paperwork in the office while I taught, or have me cover a class completely solo if he was unable to attend. In the context of Knox Karate, I started to feel like a role model. Naturally, though, there’s always another level to pursue in the martial arts. For me at that time, it was the General Class, where I was still quite junior.

Sensei Alex blocks a kick and takes down his opponent during the IFKKA September 2015 Tournament. Alex placed Third in his division.

A dedicated and adept teacher who serves as a role model for all members of the dojo is fundamental to uniting a Karate class to train hard and continue to pursue self-improvement. In the words of Shotokan Karate-Do founder Gichin Funakoshi, “Karate is like boiling water: without heat, it returns to its tepid state.” The teacher living up to their duty as role model provides that heat.

3. The teacher as a technician

Sensei Alex demonstrating during the 2017 North Coast KIMAA Seminar.

 A good teacher of Karate does more than just drill techniques into their students – a point to which I will return – but the foundation of correct technique is a vital component for any martial artist. In this sense, ‘technique’ encompasses all executed movements in Kyokushin – strikes, blocks, kicks, stances – as well as composite movements and patterns – ido geiko, combinations, kata, bunkai, fighting manoeuvres and all levels of kumite. The logic of the importance of a teacher as a technician stems from the teacher’s ultimate responsibility of being a role model: the teacher must display, understand and be able to explain every technique to the highest degree of accuracy and skill, so the class has a standard for which to strive.

Sensei Alex blocks a kick from Sensei Jon Ellis, at Sensei Hokama’s dojo in Okinawa, January 2017.

The high technical ability is a prerequisite to being an instructor, achieved through years of, as Sosai simply put it, “training. Train more than you sleep.” Similarly, a Sensei’s fitness level should be above that of the class he or she instructs. Beyond being the correct example for the class, the clarity of thought while under physical duress needed to teach is best attained through fitness. In turn, a strong foundation of fitness enables a better execution of techniques.

Sensei Alex during his Sandan grading.

While difficult and often requiring years of relentless pursuit, technical mastery is the simplest of the three elements of a teacher being a good technician, the other two being understanding and explanation. Understanding why techniques are done the way they are is what differentiates the Karate Sensei from a military drill sergeant. For example, hikite (pulling hand) is not performed for neatness or aesthetic in a sporting sense, nor simply because a book says so. Hikite produces power, whether in a strike or block, which maximises the effectiveness of the technique. It changes the power of the movement being generated from a singular limb. For example, a singular set of shoulder and arm muscles throwing a punch, to channelling the strength of the whole body, right from the ground, into the technique. There is also a potential practical application of grabbing or being grabbed, and pulling in an opponent while striking with the other hand. Understanding this and being able to explain and demonstrate the importance of hikite to a class will improve the students’ technique, enhancing their power and kime (focus). This level of understanding also increases the teacher’s ability to correct their students. For example, a good teacher may identify the cause of an ineffective punch as inattentiveness to hikite, whereas a less able teacher will likely try to improve the student’s punch with muscular power, mistakenly relying on strength over form. Hence, a teacher must constantly study and seek an understanding of what they are explaining. Teaching can also reveal to the instructor what they do not know, hence for what they need to seek answers.

Sensei Alex performs the Kyokushin Bo kata – Chion.

I have found that explaining techniques to students while teaching has greatly improved my own Karate. Explaining the importance of angles in a particular posture, weight distribution in a certain stance or how to correctly twist a limb in a block to enhance the power of the parry has made me acutely aware of the nuances involved in these techniques. Correcting the mistakes of students keeps me mindful of avoiding the same mistake as I do the technique. Years of correcting and explaining techniques has also changed the way I think while training. When performing Jodan Uke as a junior kyu grade, I only focused on the end result: arm goes up and blocks the incoming head strike at an angle. Now my technique is faster, yet I have more to think about: am I keeping my arms in an equal and opposite reaction, am I rotating my shoulders 45 degrees with the manoeuvre, is the descending arm perpendicular to the ground as it covers my body, is the ascending arm rotating that extra amount for kime as it locks into the final position, is the finishing angle of the arm correct, are my knuckles pointing to the ceiling, did my obi (belt) flick as I turned to 45 degrees to indicate I used my hips and twisted with sufficient speed, and was I as fast and accurate as the senior grade to my right? My mind checks these boxes on every technique. Karate is an invaluable art to train the body, but it also trains the mind. This can be applied to any basic technique (kihon) in Kyokushin. More advanced components of Karate, such as kata or bunkai have an even greater effect on sharpening the mind, due to their complexity. Teaching Karate has catalysed a great expansion of my mental acuity, as well as refining my technical form, further developing my skills as a martial artist.

Sensei Alex fights Eric Wright during the grading.

A Sensei who is an exemplar of technical precision does not just showcase form, but also a depth of knowledge. This includes an understanding of why the techniques are performed the way they are, the terminology and the practical application – the bunkai. Breaking down and explaining these techniques to students in turn has an effect on the instructor’s ability, as they focus on further refining the subtleties of each action, from a simple block to a takedown manoeuvre derived from a senior kata.

4. The teacher’s role in the spirituality of Karate

 The study of the martial arts is ultimately about more than a form of self-defence, but about character. Funakoshi said that the “ultimate aim of Karate lies not in victory or defeat, but in the perfection of the character of its participants.” The Karate Sensei serves as the role model to their students, continually striving to be their benchmark. This is reflected in the meaning of Kyokushin, which is commonly translated as “ultimate truth”. I have been told by a highly educated Japanese speaker that another translation could be “pursuit of the Ultimate Truth”, which is my preferred interpretation. The study of Karate is a journey with an unattainable finish line, but it is the journey that matters rather than the destination.

Sensei Alex, barefoot in the snow, at Sosai Mas Oyama’s shrine at Mt Mitsumine, January 2017.

I find that the hardworking Sensei encapsulates this pursuit of the ultimate truth. They have a high degree of technical proficiency and experience imparting this knowledge to juniors, yet are still at the lower end of the spectrum of Yudansha seniority compared to a Hanshi. A Sensei may have a more senior Sensei, Shihan or Hanshi above them in rank and ability, and that Sensei must aspire to be more like his or her senior grade in the same way that kohai aspire to be like their sempai. Years of work has been done to reach the level of Sensei, but the journey is far from over. By my definition, it can never be over – but it can be progressed along further. This state of having travelled much of the road, yet with much of the road yet to be travelled is reflected in Sosai’s quote, “One living daily in the Way carries their head low and their eyes high; reserved in speech and possessing a kind heart, they steadfastly continue in their training efforts.”

The sentiment expressed by Sosai captures that of Karate’s spiritual side. The model karateka is of a well-rounded character; patient, resilient and courteous. There are many quotes by Sosai espousing these ideas: “Courtesy should be apparent in all our actions and words and in all aspects of daily life,” and “The karateka who has given the necessary years of exercise and meditation is a tranquil person. He is unafraid. He can even be calm in a burning building.” A teacher aims to guide their students towards these courteous, “more spiritually focused Japanese Karate [principles],” (Sensei Tetsuhiro Hokama). The teacher who lives with a mindful adherence to the Dojo Kun for themselves and their students will deepen their own martial art spirituality.

Sensei Alex after the grading.

In my own experience, I believe I have lived by the principles of Kyokushin as best I can. The Dojo Kun has helped me grow in maturity and strength of character, particularly as Karate came into my life during my teenage years. I have failed on many occasions – whether due to hubris, laziness or otherwise – but I hold myself accountable. I have built myself to this point over years of training and teaching, doing my best to be a role model for students not just in technique, but in character. I have learned that “Karate … must be a moral way, surpassing mere techniques,” (Sosai). I believe that Hanshi Lipman inviting me to attempt a Sandan grading reflects that. But, as with technical training, there is always room to improve.

Being an instructor also teaches the Karate Sensei to be selfless in their pursuit of the ultimate truth. Ego has no place in the dojo; the show-offs never last in a reputable dojo. One can pursue a sense of achievement and use that as a source of motivation, but pride is not the goal of training. Building students from beginner through to advanced levels can be humbling for the Sensei, too. Shihan Judd Reid details in his book The Young Lions an occasion when Sosai paired Reid with his own teacher, Wada Sensei, to fight each other for a place in the All Japan Tournament. Reid overcame his mixed feelings and bested his teacher in the fight: “By the end, I was clearly the dominant fighter, and sure enough, the judges awarded the fight to me. I was selected to fight in the All Japan and Wada wasn’t. Wada Sensei graciously congratulated me … a real life story where the student finally overcomes the teacher’s own ability, through the teacher’s own efforts and training.” I can only imagine how proud Wada Sensei was of Shihan Reid after that 1990 fight. Every teacher’s goal should be for their students to one day exceed their own abilities, rather than remain forever subservient. This is in the spirit of pursuing the ultimate truth, and doing so one generation at a time.

Sensei Alex leads the class during the senior grading.

The Karate teacher who lives by the principles of the martial arts; who enacts them every day; is on the path to be a truly great martial artist. Being a Karate instructor has seen me exercise “the power of combining rigorous physical discipline with philosophical study” so that I “can readily testify to the self-conquests made possible through karate-do,” (Hanshi Patrick McCarthy). I have seen firsthand my most senior Karate instructors all live by this code. This differentiates Karate from sport – it is not a hobby or game; it is a lifestyle.

5. Conclusion

The role of teaching is fundamental to the development of a martial artist.

Sensei Alex Lloyd & Hanshi Howard Lipman

A Karate teacher has a symbiotic relationship with their students, in that they must always set a benchmark for the students to try to attain, and the students in turn drive the teacher to better themselves for they are always pursuing the standard which has been set. A teacher who is a role model to their students leaves no room for complacency, but inspires self-improvement and growth by their own example. While an instructor in the dojo will have already exhibited technical proficiency to seniors to be in that position, the act of teaching and explaining techniques will further refine the Sensei’s form as they deepen their knowledge and apply this to their practice of techniques. Finally, the Sensei who seeks to live by and impart to others the principles of the martial way, and not just perform a sport, will foster their own spiritual development as a karateka, and that of their students. Teaching has been an integral part of my own development as a martial artist for all these reasons. It has had a profound effect on my character and maturity, and enabled me to grow into someone who does not simply do Karate, but one who tries to be a true karateka.

Growing Up With the Martial Arts

Foreword

By Hanshi Howard Lipman (9th Dan Kyokushin, 7th Dan Kobudo)

Sensei Alex Lloyd, Hanshi Howard Lipman & Sempai Jasper Choi, at a training session after the grading.

Jasper Choi was promoted to Shodan having started training as a seven year old, and reaching Shodan at seventeen years – the same year in which he is doing his HSC. Jasper exhibited an extremely mature attitude towards his training and grading, and general understanding of Kyokushin. He won the respect of all the other black belts and now takes his place amongst them.

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An essay written by Sempai Jasper Choi for his Shodan Grading (June 2018)

Synopsis

Growing up with the martial arts, notably Kyokushin Karate, has been an experience and a test of perseverance, endurance and strength in “mind, body and spirit”, a recitation spoken and lived by its founder, Sosai Mas Oyama.

Sempai Jasper Choi during his Shodan grading.

The personal development of physical and mental growth from childhood to adulthood is ultimately a journey. A journey which is different for each and every person. Personally, growing up has been the act of fostering an understanding of the world through one’s parents, peers and experiences. Kyokushin Karate has been a core experience that has resonated with and intertwined itself within my life as a karateka and as a person.

Kyokushin Karate is known and propagated as “The Ultimate Truth” which I interpret as – trust in yourself and others, notably the trust in yourself is what cultivates personal strength and character. This strength of character and trust is imperative to oneself and their aspirations in life.

This is the ultimate truth which is the central element of Kyokushin, not only as a martial art, but as a lifestyle. The physical tests of endurance serve to enhance the appreciation and development of key values presented by parental guidance and personal experience.

Wesley Snider vs Jasper Choi, during Wesley’s 1st Kyu grading and Jasper’s Shodan grading.

From the age of seven, to the age of seventeen, my journey with Kyokushin Karate has not been one of perfection or talented prodigy, but one of challenge and doubt.

The grade of Shodan represents only the beginning of a lifelong pursuit, a cliché that all karateka come to agree upon.

I hope to express within this piece, the maturity and the personal challenges I faced on the path to attain the opportunity to grade to Shodan and the reasons for my readiness to take this next step on my journey with Kyokushin Karate.

The Beginning of the Journey

At the age of seven, I walked up the narrow stairs to the dojo, experiencing for the first time, the now familiar smell of the mats and the spirit of the “kiai”. The sight and the sound of the snapping white gi, the smiles on the faces of the children and the friendship they all shared seemed to ignite the already emerging fire of excitement.

Sempai Jasper (right) during his Shodan grading.

It was at this moment, I realised, that the gi pants would always be infinitely larger than the gi jacket itself and the belt always tied incorrectly unless done by a professional, either Sensei James or my father.

I distinctly remember one of my first instructors, Gavin. I started with two other children, themselves already good friends, disinterested in the movements of the basics. Gavin took me aside, and taught me the beginnings of the first punching basics, ever patient with my lack of coordination.

I returned each Monday, Wednesday and Friday after that, with a certain interest that could be compared to religious devotion and fervor.

Sempai Jasper during his Shodan grading.

This beginning saw the emergence of friendships that grew beyond school, beyond family and beyond other sports. The games played before and after class, the precise movements of kata and the Japanese spirit of respect and humility was reflected in the way I carried myself in the dojo, albeit with small steps and a soprano voice, with a sense of pride and passion for Kyokushin Karate.

I now realize, that this sense of pride and passion was formed from discipline as well as friendship and camaraderie. The concept of discipline for a child, something I have also come to realize as an instructor, is at times, confusing and unattainable.

My instructors Hanshi Howard Lipman and Sensei James Sidwell made this concept of discipline seem like an enjoyable experience, something I can only hope to emulate and build on as a student and as a teacher. Their patience and their value as a mentor as well as an instructor was appreciated, even by a seven-year-old boy.

Challenge and Adversity

Sempai Jasper blocks a kick from Sempai Angus Sweeney during his forty fights for Shodan.

My interest in Kyokushin Karate as a child did not come without its frustrations and inherent challenges. The dipping motivation and the growing disinterest in the monotony of classes saw my passion for karate wane and fade.

The starting of high school brought its own opportunities and challenges. The pressures of academia and personal goals in school sport came to overtake the values I had been taught in the art of Kyokushin.

This period saw my attitude become irritable and unpleasant, often resulting in snide comments and excessive pride. I was lost in the world of the teenage boy, apathetic and cynical in my lack of experience.

The transition to the adults class became a way of reinvigorating my passion for the martial arts. The passion of that seven-year-old boy came to the forefront once more.

Shihan Glen Gibbons awards Jasper Choi his medal. Jasper came Third in his division at the IFKKA May 2017 Tournament.

School debating on Friday nights was another adversity I had to overcome in order to focus on my training. The Friday nights I spent at karate soon became limited and soon stopped. The midweek classes impacted my academic results in Years 8 and 9, ending in sporadic appearances at the dojo every fortnight.

The re-emergence of the “ultimate truth” into my young life did not come as an epiphany or a moment of spiritual clarity. It was a moment of humility. I had finally understood the concept that one is never the best, and can never be the best, but only to keep striving for the best.

Sempai Jasper during his Shodan grading.

The reality of my situation was that I became disillusioned by everyone else’s success in the dojo and their immense improvements across the months of my absence. People who began their journey after me were training harder than I was, and it dramatically changed my attitude towards my own progress.

The healthy competition and support within the dojo drove me once again to strive for improvement and personal development. I did not appreciate or know at the time, but the re-immersing of my body and spirit into karate brought a more level headed demeanor towards school activities and relationships with teachers, friends and strangers.

This step to becoming a Shodan will represent the change and clarity through the maturity that I have developed since my younger, more turbulent self.

Motivation and Determination

As I came to learn the values of humility, respect and moderating pride, my motivation to train hard returned tenfold.

I believe that motivation fluctuates, it comes and goes with one’s personal interests and situations, a fleeting emotion, guided by the mind’s perception of pain versus gain.

Sempai Jasper during his Shodan grading.

I have come to realise in the most basic sense, that discipline and determination is a hard-cut decision, a commitment and a pursuit of the betterment of one’s own spirit. To truly put into practice, the concept of enhancing the abilities of mind, body and soul.

This newfound resolve I have found in my training has been the result of perseverance and determination through discipline. The road to my grading has always been shaded with an aura of doubt and uncertainty, which pervades the whole concept attaining the rank of Shodan, with the building of a strong mindset of determination above the underlying thoughts of failure and giving up.

Sempai Jasper after his 40 fights for Shodan.

Giving up is always the easier option. Giving up is the unconscious whisper that tells you to put down the weights, to stop moving your legs, to walk away from the heavy bag. Giving up only leads to failure and no improvement. My personal understanding of this painfully tempting option, is that giving up is beautifully masked by the excuses and cynicism that comes with failing a task.

To undertake the training needed to attain the grade of Shodan, the mind must be strong in resisting the ever-present urge to stop and rest and the body must be strong to resist pain and fatigue.

I present this statement to highlight the fact that my mind is not of the strongest will, and my body is not conditioned to the point of whole readiness. It is a constant challenge that only determination can drive, not motivation or fleeting interests. I believe that this ongoing commitment is what has made me ready to attempt the grading with a strong and ready resolve.

This commitment has returned to me since the end of Year 10, beginning my journey as a teacher as well as a student. This has been the most invaluable experience since my return to serious training.

“Sempai Jasper”

The experience of teaching has truly widened my perspective as a student of Kyokushin Karate and brought a newfound respect for my instructors. This value of respect has been instilled in me not only by my teachers, but my friends, children and the parents who involve themselves with KIMAA.

Sempai Jasper Choi & Hanshi Howard Lipman

I came to experience that teaching is not the exercise of feeling superior or talented. It is the emotion of humility that drives the process of helping one enjoy and find passion for Kyokushin Karate.

With my limited years of teaching Kyokushin Karate, there are some questions which never fail to reveal themselves in a conversation with parents hoping to send their children into the supposed “abyss” of the martial arts and its connotations to violence and unruliness.

I find that there are generally two types of parents when it comes to sending their child to train at the dojo. One believes that it is ‘too hard’, violent and generally unnecessary and outdated with what is going on with the ever advancing world of technology. In contrast, the other parent believes in the disciplinary and cultural connections to the art of Karate and its ability to strengthen mental willpower and physical ability.

I believe that karate is a combination of both perspectives. I tell parents and peers alike: karate is hard, it is a lifestyle that encompasses aspects of sport and fitness. I express that karate is hard not only because of its physical demands, but the mental demand.

Through teaching, I have realized that this mental strain is the hardest part of Shodan training. The common question that my brain screams during personal training in the gym or at the oval is “Do I finish the last 10 pushups of this set? Do I run that extra lap? Or do I have a warm shower and go home?”. This question is integral to success in striving for a Kyokushin Black Belt, but what is more important is how one answers that question.

Sempai Jasper with his family and Hanshi Howard, after being awarded his Shodan.

Before I taught classes, I would arrive early to work the bags and practice kata, to the dismay of many of the children due to the interruption of their games. I would practice my own kumite drills with my young students, with the surreal answer of “Osu Sempai” echoing from a group of soprano voices. The infinite respect I have for the kids, they will only understand when they grow older, to walk the same path as I did, hopefully facing their own personal challenges with even more resolve than I had.

The power of a child fills me with awe and wonder at my own temperament as a young boy. They are all bursting cauldrons of energy until the call for pushups rings across the mats of the dojo. As I see it, the child possesses a malleability that resembles that of wet clay, its properties easily able to become distorted and unfocussed, or sharp and polished with the exact same ease.

I hope to learn the skill and effortless connection and friendly tutelage afforded to me by my instructors and to reflect it within my own teaching.

Thus, idea of the growth and development of a child through the martial arts has not only affected my life, but has enabled me to share my passion and spirit with others, to foster their desire and determination as well as their techniques and kata.

Moving Forward

One aspect of the Shodan grading I have observed, is that one is never totally ready. There will always be improvements to be made. There will always be someone to learn from, and there will always be something to aspire to.

Sempai Jasper leads the class during his Shodan grading.

The lead up to this vital step, or leap, of my journey as a karateka is one I will always remember. The hours of training, culminating into one grueling day, pushing one’s limits and overcoming the pain to achieve not only a physical reminder in the form of a belt, but a symbolic representation of my hard work in proving myself to be faithful to the “Ultimate Truth”.

My development from that seven-year-old boy has seen the overcoming of hardships and adversity and a newfound understanding of the values that drive the Kyokushin Spirit. My appreciation of humility as well as strength and pride has been central to my improvement as a karateka, student and teacher.

My aspirations are to continue learning from my instructors and peers, and to continue guiding younger karateka to achieve their best inside and out of the dojo, whilst remembering my own journey and forging new paths to success through this next step of my development in growing up with the martial arts.

Perseverance in Kyokushin

Foreword

By Shihan Howard Lipman (8th Dan Kyokushin, 7th Dan Kobudo)

Jonathan Lee with Shihan Ken Ogura and Shihan Howard Lipman at the 2016 Shihan Ken Seminar.
Jonathan Lee with Shihan Ken Ogura and Shihan Howard Lipman at the 2016 Shihan Ken Seminar.

Over the years I have read many essays written by students as part of their requirements for black belt. Many different facets of Kyokushin have been explored by these students, ranging from discussions on technique to training methods, and what they hope to achieve in their future in Kyokushin Karate.

To the dedicated student, simply put, Kyokushin becomes a way of life and for me personally to this point, it has spanned 46 years. The essay submitted by Jonathan Lee of Turramurra Dojo, prior to his Shodan grading on December 3rd 2016, is one I would advise all Kyokushin students to read thoroughly, and absorb the salient points within.

The essay’s title is “Perseverance” and this, combined with introspection on Jonathan’s part, reveals the thoughts that go through the mind of a dedicated karateka. As Jonathan’s essay explores, the learning never stops.

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An essay written by Sempai Jonathan Lee for his Shodan Grading (December 2016).

Introduction

Mastering the road to black belt is no small feat, nor is the path an easy journey. It requires dedication, commitment, passion, tolerance, patience, physical and mental strength and, most of all, perseverance. Perseverance is one of the most important qualities for the karateka to have in their Kyokushin journey, a quality which permeates all aspects of this martial art. Perseverance keeps us karateka focused on the goal, lets us master our techniques and strengthens our mental fortitude for what is to come.

A common saying in all martial arts is that a “black belt is simply a white belt that refused to give up”. My journey to black belt hasn’t been an easy one, with many setbacks and injuries, but that hasn’t stopped me from wanting to achieve this milestone in life.

1. What Is Perseverance and Why Is It Important

Perseverance is a powerful quality in a person, and is something everyone has but can be developed further through time and experience. The journey to black belt has been a long one for me, almost ten years. Perseverance is an invaluable character trait and can be defined as the ability to face a challenge and to keep pushing forward, one step at a time, regardless of any setback. In the martial arts, it can be that white belt refusing to give up. The ability to keep pushing on, even when faced with a disappointment or failure, is a trait that can make all the difference.

Jonathan Lee
Jonathan Lee in his Shodan grading.

Perseverance is an important quality because it makes even the most seemingly impossible task possible. It is what distinguishes the strong from the weak, the successful from the unsuccessful. As a martial artist, perseverance is what keeps you optimistic in times of setback or when you face an obstacle. Instead of seeing the setback as synonymous with failure, a true martial artist sees this as an opportunity where they can grow and learn something new. Kyokushin Karate’s belt hierarchy is one such means where students can develop their ability to persevere. When students set a goal to earn their next belt, they come across many challenges along the way and must persist to achieve that goal. As the belts get higher in rank, timing between gradings increase as the road to the next belt becomes harder and harder. In turn, the karateka’s training and application towards their goal must commensurably increase to match; as the goal grows, so must the threshold of the student’s perseverance.

We are all taught perseverance at an early age, even if we’re not conscious of it. When a child first learns to stand and walk, they find they fall repeatedly. However, it is natural instinct for them to get back up and try again and again. Despite falling over innumerable times, they ultimately succeed because they persevered. This similar principle can be carried through all aspects of life – especially in Karate.

Jonathan Lee leads the grading.
Jonathan Lee leads the grading.

One of the eleven sayings (“Zayu no Mei Juichi Kajo”) by Sosai Mas Oyama is that “Following the Martial Way is like scaling a cliff – continue upwards without rest. It demands absolute and unfaltering devotion to the task at hand.” This is what perseverance is all about – the devotion to the seemingly impossible task at hand, the cliff, and exhibiting the persistent effort required to conquer it. The importance of perseverance is further supported in Kyokushin Karate’s Dojo Kun, where Karateka “train their hearts and bodies for a firm unshaking spirit”. This unshaking spirit is what Kyokushin is all about.

2. How Perseverance Has Helped Me in Karate

Knox senior students in 2008: James Butterworth, Alex Lloyd & Jonathan Lee.
Knox senior students in 2008: James Butterworth, Alex Lloyd & Jonathan Lee.

I remember my first day at Karate in 2006. I started Karate as a school sport. I was hooked from the very first session. As most beginners realise, there is so much to take in when you first learn basics (“kihon”) – everything from listening to Japanese customs to the various techniques and stances you’re required to move in. My best friend was one of the reasons I started Kyokushin Karate. He inspired me to follow my dreams of becoming a true martial artist and to this day continues to push me to be better every day. He has been with me since day one, and always my senior student (“Sempai”) who would teach me extra moves during school so that I could perfect everything for class. However, “perfect” is a term that seems impossible to reach and, as I’m constantly told, black belt is only the beginning.

These past ten years have taught me valuable life lessons which have been fundamental in shaping who I am today. They have taught me qualities such as patience, integrity, respect and perseverance. These aren’t qualities which can be bought or built overnight. Many who have trained with me can attest to the number of injuries and setbacks I’ve had on my journey to black belt.

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Jono and other students at a KIMAA seminar.

One of the biggest setbacks I’ve faced is the tearing of my left anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in 2013. I’d achieved my 1st Kyu the previous year and was in training for the black belt grading. The injury was a major setback for me, both physically and mentally. After a three-hour surgery, I woke and had a surge of motivation. My uncle is a 3rd Dan (“Sandan”) in Kung Fu, so becoming a black belt in martial arts had been a childhood dream. This became a focused goal when I began Karate at Turramurra Dojo. I was not going to let any setback stop me from becoming a Kyokushin 1st Dan (“Shodan”). It was a life-changing moment because I decided I wasn’t going to give up on my dream. This gave me a renewed determination to succeed. I spent countless hours learning to walk again, performing drills with resistance bands along with stretching and other exercises to rehabilitate my knee. During this difficult time, I found inspiration in other fighters such as Muhammad Ali. I still turn to this quote often for inspiration in times of upset or hardship: “I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’” It took a year to return to a state where I was capable of training. A year of hard work and rehabilitation felt like an eternity, but after finally coming back to a point of greater fitness than before, I was happy. I was back on track for my black belt.

Sempai Jonathan and others performing kata in his Shodan grading.
Jono and others performing kata in his Shodan grading.

This brings me to my second major setback. In 2015, I was ready again to go for my black belt. Two months away from the grading, I ended up partially tearing both my anterior talofibular ligament (ATL) and calcaneofibular ligament (CFL) during class. After having trained for so long and rehabilitating after my ACL injury, this was another major blow to my motivation. I was devastated as I wouldn’t be able to grade any more. It took me five months of rehabilitation to get back to a stage where I was able to train again. Often during this time I felt like quitting, my motivation was running out. However, I reflected on my journey so far and thought about why I started in the first place. Black belt was a milestone I had always wanted in my life and I knew I had to commit my very being to it if I really wanted it. I realised that the moment when you want to quit, is the moment when you need to keep pushing. This brings me to 2016, the third year running for me to attempt black belt. Two major injuries down, I’ve come back more focused and determined than ever.

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Jonathan Lee during his 40 fights for Shodan.

This determination has evolved from my study of Karate and the Kyokushin spirit. The karateka often hears the word “Osu” being shouted throughout training. The moment we leave the dojo the final word is “Osu!”. It is an integral part of Kyokushin and it is one of the things that sets ours apart from other martial arts. Osu is derived from the Japanese term “oshi shinobu” where “oshi” means to push and “shinobu” meaning to endure. As a student of Kyokushin Karate, I was always told the importance of this word. The term “Osu” means to persevere, persist, keep going, to be patient. This is why it is a fundamental part of Kyokushin – that you as a student have to be patient in your training and never give up. By pushing hard and persevering, the karateka will reap the benefits from their study of Kyokushin and these far outweigh the sweat and discomfort of the training. According to the KIMAA syllabus, “through perseverance, each time a student leaves the dojo they are a better person. This is the purpose of Karate, this is the true spirit of osu.”

Despite all these setbacks and injuries, perseverance has been the key for me to continue on this journey. Many people would look at these injuries and have regrets that things didn’t go according to plan but I see them as a valuable lesson – especially from a mental and spiritual point of view. All the setbacks have helped me become a much stronger, more resilient and more persevering person than I would have been if I got my black belt three years ago, and for that I am grateful. This is why I believe perseverance is one of the most important qualities when one embarks on a hard journey such as striving to become a Kyokushin Karate black belt (“yudansha”). When you’ve finally accomplished a goal you can look back at everything and confidently say to yourself, “I persisted, I persevered and now I conquered.” Perseverance is a decision. I look at my scars from my ACL surgery and the brace I wear on my ankle, and have realised they are my tattoos. They remind me of where I’ve been and what I’ve accomplished. I’ve realised that Kyokushin isn’t about how tough my physical body is today, how much pain I’m currently in or how many fights I’ve won. It’s not about the number of stripes on my belt or how long I’ve been doing Karate. Kyokushin has taught me that I have the strength to survive anything that life throws at me – that at the end of the day I will pick myself up and continue on my way.

Sempai Jono demonstrates finger-tip push-ups for Shodan.
Jono demonstrates finger-tip push-ups for Shodan.

As I’ve done Karate over the years, it’s amazing how many people I’ve seen come and go. People who started at the same time as I did but, for whatever reason, took a break and just never got back into it. This pattern serves as a reminder to all karateka who persevere of how far they’ve come. It reminds me of how well I persevered with my goal when others fell by the wayside. That’s what it’s all about – consistent, dedicated effort over the long haul. It’s not about being the strongest or toughest athlete, having good natural balance and flexibility or great reaction speeds. When you start, none of those things matter. What matters is your ability to persevere. This is because in the long run it’s not where you start, it’s where you end up and how you get there that matters. At the end of the day, it’s perseverance which is the secret to success. I have learned that we all have the capacity for perseverance, but to take hold and use it is something learned by an individual through focus, dedication and practice. It’s a type of habit that can be applied in all life situations, whether it’s a challenging task at work or the next belt in Karate. When it comes down to it, the famous baseball player Babe Ruth’s quote couldn’t ring more true, “you just can’t beat the person who never gives up”.

3. Perseverance and Its Relevance to Black Belt 

The Kyokushin black belt grading is one of the toughest challenges the karateka can face. The difficulty is so great as successful applicants will be Shodans, demonstrating they have mastered the basics and can properly begin their martial arts journey, down the path of the yudansha. It is a gruelling six-hour test which begins with kihon, combination work of both hand and leg techniques, form (“kata”), self-defence (“kyojitsu”), application of fighting techniques (“oyo bunkai”), stamina and fitness tests, and then lastly an unforgiving set of forty 90-second rounds of full contact fighting “(jiyu kumite”). Understandably, the Shodan grading is not one which is taken lightly – it takes a person who has commitment, passion, physical and mental strength, and a great deal of perseverance to get through it. This special kind of person is one who has decided to devote their life to the martial way (“budo”) and who isn’t afraid of the difficult and arduous journey. This grading isn’t just designed to test one’s martial arts knowledge and skills, but to truly examine who you are when you are physically and mentally exhausted. It is designed to test your decision-making when you’re at your worst as well as your ability to deal with a real situation that might require the use of Karate. At its core, the Shodan grading is testing the principles of a Kyokushin karateka – that is spirit, the will to fight and endure.

4. Benefits of Perseverance and How to Improve It

Sempai Jonathan during his 40 fights for Shodan.
Jonathan Lee during his 40 fights for Shodan.

Perseverance is an important quality that not only helps you attain your goals, but fuels many other valuable traits in a person. It makes you trustworthy in the eyes of others, gaining respect because people know you to be the kind of person who doesn’t quit when faced with challenges. It also helps improve your self-worth and gives a great sense of achievement once a goal is reached. A karateka with perseverance knows that the ability to achieve their goal is within their own hands and that they alone have the choice whether they reach their goal.

Jonathan observing "Mokuso" before a senior kata.
Jonathan just after finishing “Mokuso”, preparing for a senior kata.

Having stated the importance and benefits of perseverance, how does one improve it? Perseverance is a quality that everyone has, but to varying degrees. Despite this, it can be trained like a muscle with the right guidance and patience. Firstly, at the start and end of each Karate class, students kneel (“seiza”) and meditate (“mokuso”). This is an important time for students to reflect on their goals, their training and what they need to do to improve. Secondly, by starting with smaller goals, students are able to reach their ultimate goal in stages. For example, to learn a head height roundhouse kick (“jodan mawashi geri”), a student may progress from using the wall to assist them as they learn the chamber and pivot, to performing a middle body roundhouse kick to finally a head height roundhouse kick once they’ve developed the flexibility, technique and balance required. By breaking techniques into smaller steps, the larger goal is much easier and the accomplishment of each mini-step will inspire the student to keep up the hard work. Lastly, I found that when faced with a new challenge or whenever I felt discouraged, be it due to injury or other circumstances, it was best to take a step back from everything. By concentrating on the big picture, one realises that the current obstacle is only a small rock on the path to success. Perspective is an important tool and I have found it to be an indispensable skill to have on my road to black belt.

Conclusion

Shihan Howard Lipman awards Sempai Jonathan Lee his Shodan, December 2016.
Shihan Howard Lipman awards Sempai Jonathan Lee his Shodan, December 2016.

Perseverance is an amazing personal quality to develop and will help the karateka in all aspects of life – whether it be at school, work, hobbies and especially Kyokushin. I found it an important trait to develop in my pursuit of black belt and encourage all students to never give up their dreams. I will shortly be undergoing my Shodan grading and I know that it will be a gruelling challenge – particularly the fights. I may be bruised, bleeding and a little broken, but I’m going to get back up every single time . . . because I am Kyokushin.

Shihan Howard Lipman and Shihan Rick Cunningham with the new black belts.
Shihan Howard Lipman and Shihan Rick Cunningham with the new black belts.

 

Importance of Visual Focus in Karate

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Sensei Don Cheong performs tameshiwari, employing correct visual focus to execute the break.

An essay written by Sensei Donald Cheong, in preparation for his sandan grading (November 2015).

Introduction

Although often taken for granted, our eyes guide us throughout our lives. From when we wake up in the morning, to the moment we fall asleep, we look, we see, and we do. The importance of our eyes and the sense of sight extends to karate, and the karateka (karate student) must train them well. Visual focus is the foundation of posture and balance. It provides a frame of reference and is critical to both focus and general alertness. The karateka must never forget their eyes in training, in particular kihon (basics), ido geiko (moving through in stance), kata (formalised pattern or form) and kumite (sparring).

1. Kihon

Jermaine at the April 2015 KIMAA seminar.
Jermaine demonstrates excellent visual focus while practising kihon.

When one begins training in karate, they begin with basic training, known as ‘kihon’. The white belt is instructed on posture and balance as a foundation of their training. While developing posture and balance, the karateka must focus their eyes correctly. In kihon, the karateka must look ahead at eye level, and not down at the ground. Looking ahead ensures the body is upright, chin held high and back straight. This helps open the chest for breathing, allows for proper tensing of the core and ensures that energy is flowing freely from the ‘hara’ (reservoir of energy located below the navel). If the karateka is to look at the ground, their posture and balance will be poor, their breathing hindered and internal energy flow restricted. The eyes must therefore be trained well in kihon.

Some more advanced kihon involve circular techniques, such as ‘mawashi geri’ (roundhouse kicks) and ‘ushiro mawashi geri’ (reverse roundhouse kicks). With the added movement in these techniques, positioning of the eyes is even more crucial in maintaining posture and balance. The eyes must look forward at all times. With spinning kicks, the eyes lead the execution. The head turns first to enable the eyes to lock on to the imaginary opponent in front of them, which establishes a frame of reference for the body and leg to follow for the remainder of the kick. Without this focus (‘kime’), the technique will lack balance, and without this kime, the body has no frame of reference from which to execute techniques. The mastery of advanced karate techniques is difficult to achieve without training of the eyes.

2. Ido geiko

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Victor and Josh use their eyes for ido geiko.

The next stage of karate training involves moving through in different stances and executing various techniques, otherwise known as ‘ido geiko’. The eyes again play a vital role. Ido geiko involves moving up and down the dojo, always with a turn or ‘mawatte’ at each end. The head and eyes must lead the turn for balance and in particular, for the karateka to see the imaginary opponent behind them before turning. More advanced ido geiko training involves moving in ‘kaiten’ and ‘sagari’ (‘turning around’ and ‘turning retreat’). It is critical, as with the mawashi techniques, that the eyes lead the turn and lock onto the front position before the remainder of the turning around or turning retreat is executed. The eyes must therefore be trained well in ido geiko.

3. Kata

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Sensei Don shows how using the eyes is essential for balance and correct technique in kata.

In karate, one of the key training foundations is ‘kata’. Kata combines posture, balance and technique in a formal pre-arranged pattern. As the eyes improve proficiency in these three aspects, as discussed above, kata also requires correct visual focus. Karateka are always taught to ‘look first’ when they begin their kata. While this teaching is usually explained by the importance of seeing one’s opponent, ‘looking first’ is also critical in ensuring the eyes are focused on a position, establishing a frame of reference and enabling the rest of the body to follow, so the technique is executed with balance. This is even more important with kata performed in ‘ura’ (spinning around). Leading the kata with the eyes also creates intention in the movements, making the direction of the movements clear and forecasted. The eyes must be trained well in kata.

4. Kumite

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Sensei Don uses his visual focus to land a blow in kumite.

One of the physical ultimates of karate is ‘jiyu kumite’ (free sparring). The eyes are critical in kumite to ensure the whole of the opponent is visualised. There is some debate about exactly where the eyes should look, however focusing on the region between the chest and the opponent’s eyes is generally accepted. Focusing on this area allows the karateka to see, in their peripheral vision, the whole of the opponent. This general alertness or remaining spirit is known as ‘zanshin’. The correct visual focus and zanshin allows for instantaneous detection of any body movement by the opponent, whether it is the initial stages of a kick, a punch or a flinch that may signal the initiation of a technique. Conversely, focusing the eyes on an opponent’s hands or legs will result in a failure to detect movement in other parts of their body, therefore creating blind spots. Correct visualisation with the eyes is critical in kumite and must be trained well.

Applications of visual focus beyond karate

The importance of correct visual focus extends beyond karate, into many other disciplines and sports.

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Correct visual focus transfers into other sports and disciplines, as Sempai Alex shows here in Kobudo.

When a beginner is taught to ski, snowboard or wakeboard, they are instructed not to look down at their skis or snowboard, and instead to look up at where they wish to go. Similar to karate, the rationale behind this is to ensure correct posture. In skiing, without the correct posture, weight distribution on the skis will be wrong and will impede control of the skis. In wakeboarding, focusing the eyes on the wakeboard will result in a downward looking posture, which will result in a nose-dive crash.

Another reason why in skiing (and many other high-speed sports) one is taught to focus on where they wish to go, is that the body will naturally orientate towards their point of visual focus. Conversely, if an obstacle is to be avoided, visual focus should not be on the obstacle, otherwise the body will naturally orientate towards the obstacle and will result in a collision. Similarly in mountain biking, when a rider must traverse a gully by crossing a narrow bridge, the rider must not focus on the gully below the bridge, otherwise they will inevitably end up in the gully.

In horse riding, balance and neutral body position is crucial. Horses are trained to respond to the slightest change in the rider’s posture. Slightly leaning forward or back is interpreted by the horse as a command to speed up or slow down. Maintaining a neutral body position is therefore important to avoid an unintentional command. A novice horse rider will be taught to look up in the distance at where they wish to go, which maintains the correct body position. They will also constantly be reminded not to look down at their hands holding the reins or at the horse’s head, as these will cause a forward leaning posture, sending an undesired command to the horse. Correct visual technique is vital in all of these pursuits.

Mokuso – absence of visual focus

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Students reflect at the end of training.

Another important part of karate is ‘mokuso’ or meditation, at the beginning and end of training. During mokuso, the karateka closes their eyes and focuses on the training they are about to embark upon or reflects on the training they have just undertaken. In the context of this essay on the importance of correct visual focus, closing of the eyes may seem contradictory. This is not the case. Mokuso does not involve looking outwards, but instead is a practice of looking inwards, and translated literally, means ‘looking into the heart’. This practice of introspection is aided by blocking out all distractions and therefore warrants closing the eyes. This is the only instance in karate when visual focus is not necessary, and the closing of the eyes is required.

Closing

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If you see, your body will follow.

Correct visual focus must be trained well in karate. It ensures good posture and balance, assists with breathing and energy flow, provides a frame of reference, guides movements, and provides perceptive vision when sparring. Proficiency in many other sports also requires correct visual focus. When problems arise in training, you (the karateka) should consider and analyse your position and technique, but most importantly, you should think about your eyes. Are your eyes focussing in the right direction? Are you leading your body with your eyes? Are you allowing your eyes to see the whole picture?

A widely read and respected book on personal improvement, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, written by Stephen Covey, pronounces the importance of envisioning what you want to achieve in the future, so that you know clearly now what to make a reality. It is known as the 2nd habit: ‘begin with the end in mind’. This is important in all aspects of life. In karate, one must ‘begin with the end in sight’. If you see, your body will follow.

 

Sensei Donald Cheong (3rd Dan Kyokushin)

Student Profile: Jermaine Downs

Written by Sempai Rob James

Jermaine at the April 2015 KIMAA seminar.
Jermaine at the April 2015 KIMAA seminar.

(Update: Jermaine is now a 1st Kyu in Kyokushin Karate and assistant instructor for Sempai Rob James at North Brisbane Dojo.)

Jermaine Downs began his Kyokushin journey in early 2012. When I opened the Aspley Dojo in September 2012, Jermaine was first through the doors.

Jermaine performing a self-defence technique.
Jermaine performing a self-defence technique.

Jermaine progressed in time to the rank of 3rd Kyu and has been a solid member of Aspley Dojo since the beginning. He is patient, easy to get along with and is a very well liked and respected karateka by other members of the dojo.

His strength is definitely his kumite. Jermaine regularly leaves his training partners with heavy bruising – not from striking, but simply by blocking their attacks. A very hard body indeed.

Jermaine is a great support. I’m lucky enough to call him both a friend as well as a student and I wish him all the best in his endeavours.

Jermaine performing kumite.
Jermaine doing kumite.

Student Profile: Ayla Calnan

Ayla Calnan
Ayla Calnan

Written by Sensei Jon Ellis

Ayla Calnan is 7 years old. She has been training with Sensei Jon Ellis at Ballina Dojo for 9 months now and has grown from strength to strength. Ayla is a committed karateka with Shodan always on her mind during her training. Ayla trains hard in the dojo and her efforts have encouraged her mother Rikki-Lee and father Michael to join the dojo as well.

Ayla was diagnosed with Autism at 3 and recently diagnosed with OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) and Tourette’s. She consistently works hard at everyday life as well as at her study of Karate. Ayla never complains or makes excuses for how hard training is regardless of the day she has had and is truly an inspiration for everyone who meets her.

Ayla has also decided to start Kobudo. Her first lesson last was two weeks ago at the Lismore Dojo with Sensei Jon Ellis and Sensei Mark McFadden in which she showed true spirit to conquer her afflictions.

“I am very proud to have Ayla as part of my dojo and do believe everyone could take a leaf out of her book. She never misses a class and never gives up! Well done Ayla OSU!”

 

Student Profile: James Campbell

Written by Shihan Howard Lipman

Sempai James in the August 2014 tournament
Sempai James in the August 2014 tournament

Sempai James Campbell is 2nd Dan in Kyokushin Karate and 2nd Dan in Kobudo.

Sempai James Campbell with Shihan Howard Lipman, June 2014
Sempai James Campbell with Shihan Howard Lipman, June 2014

Sempai James began his Kyokushin training in 2009 at Turramurra Dojo under Shihan Howard Lipman. He began Kobudo at Sensei Tetsuhiro Hokama’s 2009 visit to Australia.

Sempai James has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to his study of martial arts. In June 2012 he graded to 1st Dan in Kyokushin and in September that year he graded to 1st Dan in Kobudo, during Sensei Hokama’s 2012 Australian seminar.

James receives his Shodan in Kobudo from Shihan Lipman and Sensei Hokama, September 2012
James receives his Shodan in Kobudo from Shihan Lipman and Sensei Hokama, September 2012

Sempai James has gone to Okinawa twice to train in Karate and in Kobudo. He went in 2010 and 2013.

As Josh Darley is an inspiration to the kids, Sempai James is an inspiration to the adults with his dedication and discipline towards his training.

James has a genuine love of martial arts and has spent many more hours than most students in the pursuit of his Shodan and Nidan.

He has followed an intensive weight training routine under the guidance of Shihan Howard Lipman and Shihan Rick Cunningham, and runs in addition to the weights and general Karate training. His dedication towards his training has led him to have an in-depth understanding of kata, bunkai, and the development of Karate techniques. James is now in the phase of using his techniques in tournament fighting and I am sure he will eventually move from this to become one of Kyokushin’s better Senseis.

In May and August 2014, Sempai James represented KIMAA in State and National tournaments.

In June 2014, Sempai James was graded to 2nd Dan in Kyokushin by Shihan Lipman.

UPDATE: In March 2015, Sempai James represented Australia in an international Kyokushin tournament on his third trip to Okinawa. During this trip, he was also graded to 2nd Dan Kobudo by Sensei Hokama.