Narrow-gauge training in Maintal

Our ent­ry into the Ger­man Kara­te Fede­ra­ti­on was a bit bum­py, as it was initi­al­ly influ­en­ced by pet­ty vanities of a local func­tion­a­ry. But in the mean­ti­me we are ful­ly invol­ved. And the­re­fo­re I was espe­ci­al­ly loo­king for­ward to par­ti­ci­pa­ting in a four-part semi­nar ent­it­led ” Semi­nar Kara­te Tea­cher I”. But it was to be qui­te dif­fe­rent …

The Ger­man Kara­te Fede­ra­ti­on DKV is by far the lar­gest mar­ti­al arts fede­ra­ti­on in Ger­ma­ny with more than 160,000 active mem­bers. And the annu­al four-part semi­nar “Semi­nar Kara­te Tea­cher I” is one of the most sought-after and high-ran­king semi­nars wit­hin this asso­cia­ti­on, accord­ing to the asso­cia­ti­on and its mem­bers. The pro­gram also reads very exci­tin­g­ly. In four wee­kends, divi­ded accord­ing to the ele­ments earth, water, fire and spi­rit, various exci­ting topics are dealt with. Above all, several high-ran­king rep­re­sen­ta­ti­ves of dif­fe­rent styles and mar­ti­al arts come to the semi­nar and pass on their know­ledge, from (of cour­se) Sho­to­kan, over Kyus­ho, Goju-Ryu, Yoga, Wing Chun, Escri­ma to Kobu­do, Jiu Jitsu and others. All DKV mem­bers from 1st DAN on could take part.

One of the Shaolin monks there

When I heard that my Kem­po bud­dy Joa­chim from Wesel was joi­ning us, the anti­ci­pa­ti­on was even grea­ter, becau­se the Kem­po­ka from the Lower Rhi­ne is not only a cheer­ful per­son, but also a real expert for Shao­lin Kem­po with more than 40 years of Kem­po expe­ri­ence on his asce­tic back. He is also the style direc­tion advi­sor of our small direc­tion in DKV. And one of the two legen­da­ry Shao­lin monks from the Lower Rhi­ne, as he and his con­ge­ni­al part­ner Man­ni are also cal­led.

To cut a long sto­ry short: We regis­te­red and rus­hed to Main­tal near Frank­furt on the last wee­kend of Febru­a­ry. Not exac­t­ly around the cor­ner — but what a lot of things you do to learn new things! 🙂

The semi­nar lea­der, Dr. Axel Bin­hack, wel­co­med besi­des us about 25 other active par­ti­ci­pants from all over Ger­ma­ny, from Bava­ria to Ber­lin and Ham­burg. All of them Black belts, many 2nd DAN or hig­her. Most of them were Sho­to­kan rep­re­sen­ta­ti­ves, a few belon­ged to the Goju-Ryu style, and some­whe­re the­re was also a Shi­to-Ryu rep­re­sen­ta­ti­ve. Of cour­se we were the only Kem­po­ka. Axel Bin­hack has been lea­ding the semi­nar series, which he him­s­elf initia­ted, for 21 years now. The exchan­ge among each other and with other mar­ti­al arts is their pur­po­se. As descri­bed above, it is struc­tu­red accord­ing to the four ele­ments. Axel first exp­lai­ned to us why he fol­lows this divi­si­on, what it is all about and what are the intel­lec­tu­al foun­da­ti­ons behind it. Okay, sound­ed a litt­le dull at first. Unfor­tu­n­a­te­ly, two inst­ruc­tors had to can­cel their par­ti­ci­pa­ti­on on this first wee­kend due to ill­ness, so that both yoga on the first day and phy­sio­the­ra­py on the second had to be can­cel­led.

Then we went into the dojo. Wow, here, at the Budo­kan Main­tal, the­re is an extra budo hall with a fixed huge mat sur­face. Impres­si­ve. Short warm-up unit, then we star­ted with the prac­tice. Well, first of all with move­ment sequen­ces from a Sho­to­kan Kata, by means of which Axel, him­s­elf a 6th DAN, tried to exp­lain the dif­fe­rent princi­ples of earth, water, fire and air. Hm, you can go like this. But sin­ce I had asked spe­ci­fi­cal­ly befo­re­hand whe­ther the cour­se was only for Sho­to­kan-Kara­te­ka, I hoped after the first intro­duc­tion for then fol­lo­wing style-inde­pen­dent examp­les.

Jiu Jitsu for beginners

The morning went fast, after the lunch break ano­t­her theo­ry unit fol­lo­wed, but I found it not very inspi­ring. Well, may­be I’ll be addic­ted to the Eura­si­an cock­tail of ele­ments even later. After­wards we went back to the hall, I was loo­king for­ward to a good round of Jiu-Jitsu. The speaker Ste­phan Wolf is an old war­hor­se who has been accom­pany­ing the semi­nar series sin­ce the begin­ning. The 7th DAN had a top ath­le­te from his own school with him, who was his part­ner and co-lec­tu­rer. They were also very good. But what they show­ed was a litt­le bit less. Real­ly? Simp­le Fall School? And even then, most of the kara­te­ka were stan­ding next to them in ama­ze­ment. Comments like “well, I don’t like fal­ling” came up. Did you see it in the exe­cu­ti­on. But mar­ti­al arts wit­hout traps? And then the avo­id­ance and lever tech­ni­ques! I can’t stand wrist-tilt levers or Z‑levers any­mo­re when they are part of a semi­nar. Even the much-cited fat old Kem­po­ka can do it. And here a hall full of most­ly active kara­te trai­ners, most of whom obvious­ly have never been on the sub­ject befo­re.

Unfor­tu­n­a­te­ly, this has now con­ti­nued. An eter­nal wob­b­le in the fol­lo­wing two or three basic lit­ters. No stan­ce, no body cen­ter — the inst­ruc­tors had no chan­ce to teach from their reper­toire, sin­ce the basics alrea­dy pre­sen­ted the par­ti­ci­pants with real chal­len­ges. Joa­chim and I made the best out of it and star­ted to prac­tice our own thing and spi­ce up the dif­fe­rent tech­ni­ques with sui­ta­ble stan­ce heights or fol­lo­wing move­ments. Soon we were not only our black suits becau­se of exo­tics. After­wards we had 15 minu­tes for us, which Joa­chim show­ed me the mas­ter forms of Kem­po. My high­light of the wee­kend!

Hm. Din­ner and bed were then okay.

Shotokan, what are you?

The second day con­ti­nued almost seam­less­ly from the first. Kyus­ho with Achim Kel­ler (8th DAN Sho­to­kan and Kyus­ho expert) should be media­ted. But first the kata “Mats­um­ura Pas­sai in the pro­bab­ly oldest pre­ser­ved vari­ant” was shown and “taught”. Sin­ce I know neit­her the cur­rent nor the old form of this Kata known in the Sho­to­kan, the fol­lo­wing one and a half hours were maxi­mal­ly unin­te­res­ting for me. But admit­ted­ly: the form loo­ked gre­at. And many of the active ones were also able to fol­low here. The Sho­to­kan peop­le. Next to us some sym­pa­the­tic Goju-Ryu-Kara­te­ka from Müns­ter also made faces and fum­bled through the move­ments with us. Actual­ly, I would have lik­ed to stop now and only take pic­tures. But come on, may­be some­thing else came.

Che­cked off, now it was Kyusho’s turn. What did this have to do with the anci­ent kata? Or any ele­ments, Eura­si­an or not? Not­hing. But what the Kyus­ho mas­ter show­ed then were attack points with which I can sca­re 14-year-olds at most in my trai­ning. Sin­ce they were often brand new for the col­leagues in the white suits, they were prac­ticed with chan­ging part­ners. We stuck to the Goju-Ryu col­leagues and got this part around.

But is “get­ting around” the pur­po­se of a two-day semi­nar, which is not qui­te inex­pen­si­ve and very time-con­suming? Alrea­dy during the second day the thought came to me that I was actual­ly com­ple­te­ly out of place. Not becau­se I am such a top ath­le­te mys­elf or the other Sho­to­kan Kara­te play­ers are so bad. But obvious­ly the sports-ori­en­ted trai­ning to beco­me a Sho­to­kan DAN is so com­ple­te­ly dif­fe­rent that it is no lon­ger com­pa­ti­ble with (my) Shao­lin Kem­po. I’m sure the­re were qui­te a few real­ly good ath­le­tes in the hall with me. Only few of them show­ed it. All the things I expec­ted, i.e. deeper input in body­work, new insights into move­ment princi­ples and an exchan­ge of the dif­fe­rent styles at eye level, did not take place. What should the other inst­ruc­tors show me, when most of the par­ti­ci­pants alrea­dy found basic tech­ni­ques a chal­len­ge? I trai­ned Escri­ma with Tuhon Kit Ace­nas, Wing Chun with Sifu Jef­fer­son, Silat with the legen­da­ry Faust­werk­statt and also with Maul Mor­nie, Kobu­do with Frank Pel­ny. But always in their groups, with all the cracks and experts, among whom I was the goof­ball. But here I felt like the one-eyed man among blind peop­le. Thought­ful­ly, I left the hall.


On the long way home, the decisi­on was made to break off the semi­nar. I had been to so many semi­nars, and the­re was always some­thing I could take with me, a move­ment, a tech­ni­que, an atti­tu­de, some­thing. But this wee­kend I only took with me that Shao­lin Kem­po and Sho­to­kan do not get along at this level. It cer­tain­ly was­n’t the speakers, pro­bab­ly becau­se of my fal­se expec­ta­ti­ons.
Too harsh a judgment? I hope so. I hope that my next encoun­ters with Sho­to­kan-Kara­te­ka will show me that my assess­ment is com­ple­te­ly wrong. Until then, I will con­ti­nue to prac­tice Shao­lin Kem­po and the princi­ples behind it. 🙂


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