Year In Review – December 20, 2018

For Kyokushin International Martial Arts Australia, 2018 was a year of consolidating knowledge, pursuing higher technical ability and pushing new goals in tournaments.

Sempai Jason Lambe and Sempai Patricia Tan during the Sydney KIMAA Seminar.

Three major seminars were held. The first took place in Sydney, at Shihan Rick Cunningham’s Annangrove Dojo. The seminar focused on all things Kyokushin – kihon (basics), kata (forms), kumite (sparring) and tameshiwari (board breaking). The seminar had students from all the New South Wales dojos in attendance. Some standout board breaking performances in the video below include Sensei Ben Ng, Sempai Jason Lambe, Sempai Joshua Darley and Sempai Angus Sweeney.

Wesley Snider of Lismore Dojo tests his flexibility in the North Coast KIMAA Seminar.

Training continued at a relentless pace in the lead-up to junior and senior gradings in May and June. In May, Hanshi Howard Lipman taught at the KIMAA North Coast Seminar, hosted at both Sensei Mark McFadden’s Lismore Dojo and Sensei Jon Ellis’s Ballina Dojo. Sensei Rob James and students of his Brisbane Dojo also participated. This was Hanshi’s second North Coast trip in as many years. The junior grades and those unable to make the Sydney trips thoroughly enjoyed the experience of being taught by the head of KIMAA. The seminar ended with a junior grading, where Hanshi assessed the students.

Sensei Alex Lloyd during the grading.

The senior Kyokushin grading in June brought members from KIMAA back together. Karateka from Turramurra, Annangrove, Lismore and Young dojos were all assessed by Hanshi. Sean Stevens had the honour – and the pressure – of being the first student from Young Dojo, having become part of KIMAA last year, to be assessed at a KIMAA senior grading. Despite some nerves, Sean took on the challenge. Wesley Snider of Lismore, despite suffering bronchitis, stepped up and achieved the rank of 1st Kyu. And two students from Turramurra received new black belt grades: Jasper Choi fought through the 40 fights for Shodan (1st Dan), becoming a Sempai; and Alex Lloyd reached the rank of Sandan (3rd Dan), becoming a Sensei.

Sempai Jasper and Sensei Alex also wrote essays for their gradings, published on the KIMAA website: ‘Growing Up With the Martial Arts’ and ‘The Role of Teaching in the Development of a Martial Artist’.

Shihan Peter Olive instructing.

In between the major calendar events, each dojo continued the hard work. The Sydney KIMAA yudansha (black belt grades) came together when they could to train. Two dedicated classes were held at Turramurra Dojo in February and August. At Turramurra, Hanshi Howard pushed his senior grades to take up the mantle of teaching on more occasions, with the General classes rotating between the instruction of Hanshi, Shihan Peter Olive, Shihan Idir Bahamid, Sensei Mark Shelmerdine, Sensei James Sidwell, Sensei Ben and Sensei Alex. Sempai Jasper, in the lead up to his grading and in the months following, became an integral part of the Kids classes, either as instructor or in assistance to Hanshi Howard and Sensei James – despite undergoing his Year 12 Higher School Certificate. Annangrove Dojo, meanwhile, saw an expansion of its timetable, with Sempai Jason beginning Saturday morning classes, providing more opportunities for Annangrove students to train. This is an excellent step for a young Nidan (2nd Dan) who, under the tutelage of Shihan Rick, Shihan Peter, Sensei Paul Finnerty and Sensei Ian Holdaway, is beginning to walk the long path of teaching.

Jermaine Downs, of Brisbane Dojo, at the North Coast KIMAA Seminar.

Similar efforts were replicated at Sensei Rob James’s Brisbane Dojo, with Sensei Rob’s senior student, then-1st kyu Jermaine Downs, being a significant support in the adults and Little Lions classes. Sensei Rob also chose to embrace the reputation of the ‘Sunshine State’, regularly taking his students to outdoor training sessions. By exposing his students to different environments, it takes them out of their comfort zones and increases awareness in training. Another significant initiative undertaken by Sensei Rob was the commencement of martial arts classes specifically tailored for children on the autism spectrum. These were conducted at the Pine Rivers PCYC and will resume in January 2019 – interested parties should contact Sensei Rob at his number listed on this page.

KIMAA North Coast Little Lions at the NAS.

Between their own seminar and travelling to Sydney for seminars and gradings, the North Coast calendar was already full. But that was hardly an obstacle for these karateka. Students of Lismore are regular competitors at the National All Styles tournaments, which continued through 2018. Under the tutelage of Sensei Mark McFadden, Sempai Wally Gray and Sempai Patricia Tan, many Little Lions gave it a crack both on the sparring mats and in kata demonstrations. Ballina Dojo had an exciting relocation – and space upgrade. The new dojo opened in August, with Sensei Jon Ellis receiving great assistance from his loyal brown belts and ‘dojo sergeant major’ Larissa Watson.

Following the 2017 introduction of Naihanchi kata into the KIMAA syllabus, honing this kata was a focal point of training throughout the year for all KIMAA students, under Shihan Idir’s supervision.

Sensei Mark Shelmerdine runs through the Bo with students at the Shihan Ken Seminar.

The study of Okinawan Kobudo continued in 2018 across KIMAA. In Brisbane, Sensei Rob ran Kobudo study groups during the year, focusing primarily on the Bo staff. Sensei Dave and others at Young Dojo gained further exposure to Kobudo during Sydney seminars. The North Coast and Sydney Kobudo classes ran regularly, with chief instructors being Sensei Mark McFadden and Sensei Jon Ellis, and Shihan Rick Cunningham and Sensei Mark Shelmerdine respectively. The North Coast junior Kobudo students continued to expand their kata repertoire, while the seniors particularly focused on the new Eku kata taught at the 2017 Shihan Ken Seminar. In August, Hanshi Howard Lipman graded Sensei Alex Lloyd to 3rd Dan and Sensei James Sidwell to 2nd Dan in Kobudo, which was certified by Sensei Hokama.

Shihan Ken Ogura demonstrates bunkai with Sempai James Campbell.

The penultimate calendar event that brought the dojos together was the 2018 Shihan Ken Seminar. This was the third Australian seminar featuring Shihan Ken Ogura as the guest instructor, following the 2016 and 2017 seminars, and the 2015 and 2017 Japan trips. Over the course of the week, Shihan Ken exhaustively went through kata, bunkai (self-defence applications) and Kobudo with karateka of all grade levels from the New South Wales dojos, and some guests from other organisations. The seminar was a highlight of the year, and exemplifies the ongoing relationships between KIMAA and Japan.

Sensei David Craigie with Josh and Damon at the KIKO Tournament.

Throughout the course of the year, Sensei David Craigie at Young Dojo had his students hard at work on their kumite, with an eye to competing in tournaments. Josh Galea and Damon Townsend competed in a local Griffith tournament in September, both placing First in their respective divisions. Josh powered through his opponents, while Damon executed a brilliant knock-out kick. They followed this up in November, at the KIKO National Tournament held in Sydney by Kancho Doug Turnbull. Josh and Damon again took First places, returning to Young with a delighted Sensei and the news that they were national champions.

Sempai Jermaine Downs and Hanshi Howard Lipman after the grading.

The second senior Kyokushin grading was the final calendar event to bring the KIMAA dojos together. It was held at Turramurra in December. Students from Sydney, Brisbane and the North Coast participated in the grading, conducted by Shihan Peter, Shihan Idir and assessed by Hanshi Howard. All students performed admirably, including the new black belt grades: Sempai Josh Darley (Nidan), Sempai Stephen Runge (Shodan), Sempai Jermaine Downs (Shodan), Sempai Bernard Wilson (Shodan) and Sempai Cody Choi (Shodan). This grading notably resulted in the first Black Belt produced by Sensei Rob and Brisbane Dojo – Sempai Jermaine.

Hanshi Howard Lipman, Sempai Cody Choi, Sempai Josh Darley, Sempai Bernard Wilson, Sempai Jermaine Downs & Sempai Stephen Runge

You can read Hanshi Howard’s report on the 2018 Yudansha gradings here, on Facebook.

The North Coast end-of-year session.

Following the grading in Sydney, the North Coast crew conducted their usual end-of-year Kyokushin training and grading session, celebrating at the end with Student of the Year awards.

KIMAA’s year was made up by its dedicated students continuing to push hard at their martial arts – whether it was for a tournament, a grading or simply their own self-development. Thank you as always to the dojo operators and instructors for keeping things running smoothly. The best way to summarise the year, the milestones reached and the fun that was had, is with the latest KIMAA video below. Have a wonderful holiday season all, and see you in 2019.

Hanshi Howard Lipman: “I wish all students and instructors a happy Christmas and New Year. Best wishes to all.”

Senior Grading – December 8, 2018

The second senior Kyokushin grading of 2018 was held at KIMAA‘s Honbu, Turramurra Dojo. Hanshi Howard Lipman assessed the students while Shihan Peter Olive conducted the grading.

Jermaine Downs arriving at Turramurra Dojo, from Brisbane, ahead of the grading.

Participants came from Turramurra, Annangrove Dojo, Young Dojo and Brisbane Dojo. Sensei David Craigie and Sensei Rob James shepherded their students from afar, and Sensei Mark McFadden and Sempai Patricia Tan of Lismore Dojo also came down to support those attempting new grades.

Four students were attempted their 1st Dan Black Belt, which led of course to the world-renowned Kyokushin 40 fights.

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Hearty efforts were put in by all students. Congratulations to all the senior kyu grades. Special recognition goes to the Yudansha:

  • Sempai Joshua Darley, Nidan
  • Sempai Stephen Runge, Shodan
  • Sempai Jermaine Downs, Shodan
  • Sempai Bernard Wilson, Shodan
  • Sempai Cody Choi, Shodan

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Sempai Jermaine Downs and Hanshi Howard Lipman after the grading.

Sempai Jermaine is a hard-working, strong, diligent student from Brisbane Dojo. He is the first to reach Shodan from Brisbane, under the tutelage of Sensei Rob James. Sempai Jermaine has balanced his Kyokushin training with work and family commitments, but always attended seminars when he is able, and has been a strong deputy to Sensei Rob. He is a highly a capable fighter, budding instructor and good martial artist, with a bright future ahead of him. Congratulations Sempai Jermaine, and Sensei Rob on bringing your first student to back belt.

Sempai Cody is one of a crop of promising young KIMAA karateka who have, after years of dedicated training under Hanshi Howard and Sensei James Sidwell, persisted and worked in the adult General Classes towards the goal of Shodan. He has previously competed in tournaments.

Sempai Bernard also has much tournament experience and trained with increasing intensity over the years, becoming a strong young man with many years of excellent Karate ahead of him.

Sempai Stephen has been training at Turramurra Dojo for a long time, despite persistent injuries. His dedicated attitude to training despite obstacles has not gone unnoticed. He has also become a regular assistant instructor in the Kids classes and to newcomers in the General classes. He is an invaluable presence at the dojo, and a good Karate man.

Sempai Josh Darley during the grading.

Sempai Josh began his Karate training in 2012 and has been an impressive young personality at Turramurra Dojo since the beginning. He has fought in tournaments, trained with Shihan Ken Ogura, done tameshiwari and regularly pushed himself to the next level of technical excellence. He has applied himself diligently in his training to Nidan, as he did for Shodan. While it is rare for one so young to be a Nidan, he has certainly earned the grade in the eyes of the seniors.

That night, everyone celebrated with the Turramurra Christmas Party – with all those out-of-town and grading invited along, of course.

Hanshi Howard Lipman, Sempai Cody Choi, Sempai Josh Darley, Sempai Bernard Wilson, Sempai Jermaine Downs & Sempai Stephen Runge

Congratulations to all who participated in the grading – a strong, fine way to end the year.

Shihan Ken KIMAA Seminar – September 19-24, 2018

September 2018 saw Kyokushin International Martial Arts Australia host its third Shihan Ken Seminar.

Shihan Ken Ogura with nunchaku, March 2015.
KIMAA tour group with Sensei Hokama and Shihan Ogura.

KIMAA traditionally runs two seminars in Sydney twice a year, in addition to those conducted at the other dojos. In the 2015 Japan Group Tour, senior KIMAA karateka met and trained with Shihan Ken Ogura (8th Dan) at Sensei Hokama’s dojo. The group were all impressed with Shihan Ken’s martial arts ability, and his excellent teaching. Hanshi Howard Lipman invited Shihan Ken to Australia to conduct a seminar in 2016, focusing on bunkai (self-defence application from techniques, particularly in kata) and Kobudo. This was repeated in 2017 and again this year, due to the seminars’ continuing success and the interest of students.

This year, Shihan Ken (who lives in Nagoya, Japan) arrived in Australia on Wednesday September 19th. He came by the Kids Class at Turramurra Dojo with Hanshi Howard, Sensei James Sidwell and Sempai Jasper Choi.

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The seminar formally began on the Thursday night at Turramurra. The smaller group focused on bunkai from Sanchin, Pinan Yon and Pinan Go. Shihan Peter Olive resumed his role as Shihan Ken’s partner in bunkai – a.k.a. crash test dummy!

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The Thursday night group with Shihan Ken Ogura.

The Friday night drew a large crowd. Students from Ballina and Lismore dojos arrived, under the leadership of Sensei Mark McFadden, Sempai Wally Gray, Sempai Patricia Tan and seniors from Ballina Dojo. The first wave of karateka from Young Dojo, including Sensei David Craigie and Sempai Mark Long, also arrived.

Training focused on the same kata as the previous day – revision for the now ‘advanced’ students while everyone else caught up.

Special guests for the seminar, just on the Friday night, included Kancho Doug Turnbull and some of his KIKO students. Also appearing over the weekend was Kie Matsuoka, one of Shihan Ken’s students, who came out from Japan to train with Shihan Ken and KIMAA.

After training, the class went to dinner at Gordon Noodle City.

The Friday night group at the 2018 Shihan Ken KIMAA Seminar.

The seminar continued on the weekend at Annangrove Dojo. The rest of the Young Dojo contingent arrived. The day began with a basics session, conducted by Hanshi Howard. Students then broke up into groups based on grade level. Black belts studied Seienchin bunkai with Shihan Ken, while junior grades were taught by other seniors elsewhere.

Juniors took a turn with Shihan Ken, while Yudansha revised Pinan Ura kata with Shihan Peter and middle kyu grades practised Pinan Ni with Sensei Ben Ng. Then the middle-senior kyu grades went inside with Shihan Ken to look at a group bunkai drill for Gekisai Dai, assisted by Sensei Paul Finnerty.

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Junior kyu grades then had a turn learning new kata bunkai with Shihan Ken. The senior grades worked on the formality, intensity and accuracy of Sanbon Kumite. Shihan Idir Bahamid had middle kyu grades revise Naihanchi kata, then Shihan Rick Cunningham taught the group some bunkai for that kata. A few students took turns over the course of the weekend being Shihan Ken’s new demonstration partner, including Sempai James Campbell and Sempai Jason Lambe.

Shihan Ken also took some seniors through various Kobudo drills after lunch.

At the end of the day, Hanshi Howard presented Sensei Alex Lloyd his 3rd Dan in Kobudo and Sensei James Sidwell his 2nd Dan in Kobudo. They had been graded the previous month by Hanshi Howard and Shihan Rick, and now were formally presented with their certificates from Sensei Hokama (10th Dan).

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It was a long day with a large number of training sessions. Well done to all. Thanks go to both days on the weekend to Sensei Ian Holdaway, Kirsti Cunningham and Masumi Lipman for keeping everyone fed.

After the last photos were taken for the day, a dinner was held at Shihan Rick’s home.

At the end of Saturday at the 2018 Shihan Ken Seminar.

Training resumed Sunday morning. Things began with an outdoor basics session – during which, a long selfie stick and drone were flying around to film the training. This  and other footage compiled over the past few years was put together for the new KIMAA video.

KIMAA Little Lions were in attendance on the Sunday morning. Shihan Ken held a class for the kids while the adults split into groups for Kobudo training, based on their experience level. Sensei Mark Shelmerdine, Sensei Paul Finnerty, Sensei Mark McFadden, Sensei Alex Lloyd, Sensei James Sidwell, Sensei Ian Holdaway and Sempai James Campbell taught Bo and Sai to the groups.

After lunch, the kids were done for the day and the adults went back to training with Shihan Ken. This included some revision of kata bunkai and sanbon kumite. Finally, Shihan Rick conducted a bunkai test – having students rotate through different pairs, demonstrating bunkai from various kata at random.

KIMAA has firm standards of students being able to demonstrate bunkai in Kyokushin Karate gradings – the quantity and complexity of which being dependent on their grade level. These seminars are an integral part of this preparation.

A group demonstration of the Naihanchi kata was recorded on the Sunday afternoon.

The final session of the seminar was held on the Monday night at Turramurra Dojo. Shihan Ken had fun in the Kids Class, including some sparring. The adults class focused exclusively on bunkai from the Okinawan Seipai kata.

At the end, Sensei Mark, Sensei James and Sensei Alex demonstrated the Kyokushin Seipai kata for Shihan Ken, which he found most impressive. At the end of the night, Shihan Ken expressed his warm thanks for his reception in Australia, and how much he has enjoyed watching the organisation come along over the years he has been affiliated with us.

The final night of the 2018 Shihan Ken Seminar.

Thanks go to everyone who travelled to Sydney for the weekend, especially of course to Shihan Ken Ogura for travelling from Japan on this third occasion to teach KIMAA students. Further thanks go to all the seminar organisers, including Hanshi Howard Lipman and Shihan Rick Cunningham.

It is now over to the instructors and students who attended the seminar to revise what they learned, consolidate their knowledge and continue to develop their skills – to keep travelling the path.

Naihanchi – September 23, 2018

Naihanchi is a traditional Karate kata once practiced by Sosai Mas Oyama. Hanshi Howard Lipman has introduced Naihanchi as a grading requirement for 4th Kyu (green belt), for the KIMAA karateka to continue to train as per Sosai’s legacy.

This video was taken at the September 2018 Shihan Ken KIMAA Seminar.

Click here to see Shihan Idir Bahamid‘s demonstration of this kata.

Yudansha Training and Kobudo Grading – August 11-12, 2018

A Kyokushin Karate Black Belt training session was held on the afternoon of Saturday August 11th at Turramurra Dojo.

Over a long afternoon, Hanshi Howard Lipman took the KIMAA Yudansha through kihon, partner drills and fighting technique, advanced techniques and various senior kata.

A Kobudo class was held at Annangrove Dojo on the Sunday morning. The class was divided into beginner, intermediate and advanced groups. The session was conducted by Shihan Rick Cunningham, while Hanshi Howard Lipman assessed the cohort for grading.

Two students were promoted by Hanshi Howard: Sensei Alex Lloyd received his 3rd Dan and Sensei James Sidwell his 2nd Dan.

Special recognition go to Sensei David Craigie and Jeanette for travelling from Young Dojo to make the weekend sessions. And congratulations to the two promoted Kobudo yudansha.

The Role of Teaching in the Development of a Martial Artist


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 later this year.


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


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.