The two-day Residential Course held on September 4th & 5th 2010 in the beautiful village of Pontesbury, in Shropshire served as an in-depth introduction to Shorin Ryu Karate-do, a very fast and powerful style from Okinawa, the birthplace of all modern Karate.

Shorin Ryu aims to "naturally" optimise the efficiency of every technique to provide maximum power whilst expending minimum effort. As the majority of punches, kicks, blocks and stances are quite similar to the popular styles of karate throughout Kazoku Kai international, it lends itself perfectly as a versatile platform to enhance the knowledge and ability all its participants.

Emphasis was strongly placed on the theme of the Shorin Ryu fundamentals and kata which have been learned and are continually being developed by Sensei's Ridgway and Wilkins repeated visits to the distant island of Okinawa under the personal tuition of several of the Worlds most Senior Karate instructors, in particular being Arakaki Isamu Sensei - 10th Dan Shorin Ryu.

During the course, a snapshot of Shorin Ryu Karate was presented using key principals and practical demonstrations from the Kihon and several of the Katas held within the system. Traditional Okinawan training methods were used to convey the information and the technical detail was of a high level which allowed an introduction for those who were new to Shorin Ryu and also provided excellent reference for those who have begun to regularly practice Shorin Ryu along side their own particular style of Karate. This valuable insight gives those with an open mind the tools to unlock more natural strength and power by learning to analyse dynamic movements and subtly tweak the finishing positions of their techniques to maximise efficiency.

A common practice in Okinawa is to begin and end each class with Tsuki (punching). This was held true with hundreds of punches being performed throughout (both static and walking). Particular attention was paid to the correct use of the hip rotation, timing of delivery, how to correctly make a fist and the correct fist position before moving on to repeatedly practice all the basic blocking techniques.

The classes also cleverly incorporated the holistic Shorin Ryu approach for developing and maintaining a healthy, powerful body and mind with "Kushin-Undo" - a practice where the legs carefully bend and straighten like reeds while the back and neck are held naturally straight. Through this the practitioner becomes acutely aware of the relationship (and the importance of) the 'entire' body during performance of Karate - from the feet, the legs, hips, spine, shoulders and arms to the neck, head and even the eye direction. Every part of the body is considered; the slightest adjustment in posture quickly alerts the practitioner to a loss of performance - something which should ring true in our own training when seeking perfection of technique.

Two distinct methods of Kushin-Undo were utilised - one being a continuous repetition of the exercise where each student would slowly count off one to ten for each rep, continuing around the dojo until each student had counted twice - the other method was a set of just 36 repetitions with each ten having a longer period of tension than the last and the final six rep's being performed in an especially deep stance (though not so deep as to ruin the form of the technique).

All students were taught the basic FukyuGata-Ni (Kihon Kata-Ni), all the Pian Katas and the rare Senior Kata "Arakaki Sochin" (so called to distinguish it from the other Sochin katas and identify its unique lineage). In addition, time was spent to further understand the individual techniques involved and the purpose of their posture and application. Many individual points were demonstrated to help highlight the specific methods which are proven to enhance basic technique. Training in pairs, the students were encouraged to experiment and test the theories with a partner to prove to each other (in an unbiased manner) that the adjustments were making a positive difference to the stability of stances and strength of punches and blocks. Everyone agreed that the subtle adjustments provided a sound and noticeable improvement in performance.

For those who were able to stay for the second day of the course, the previous days' teachings of both Senseis were consolidated and reinforced by revisiting some sections of the training. Care was taken to point out the relevance of how everything related to what had been learned on the previous day. The Katas were performed as a group and scrutinised in more detail by the Senseis to iron out any major problems. Arakaki Sochin Kata was also performed move-by-move being scrutinised and tested for strength and stability by a partner - each technique being approved or corrected before being allowed to perform the next in sequence. This helped to cement the notion that every single move is equally important and purposeful.

Several more Katas and Bunkai were taught to provide a complete package which gave the students the tools required to analyse and develop their own performance and efficiency in karate and also visualise how the techniques could be applied in a kumite (combat) environment.

Advice was given to students of all grades that although the training was taken from a specific, traditional Karate system - all the technicalities and principals would better our own style of Karate. This ties in and reinforces perfectly the ethos of the Kazoku Kai belief that the fountain of Karate stems from one similar source and that all styles will benefit by training with and understanding each other - no matter how different they at first may appear. Elements from each discipline can be taken and developed to seamlessly run with any number of similar styles without interfering or noticeably changing one or the other. As Arakaki Sensei himself advised when he visited the Hombu Dojos of Sensei Ridgway and Sensei Wilkins earlier this year-

"If any of my Karate helps your Karate, steal it from me."

This is his way of saying that nobody can be taught Karate....The instructors cannot give - they can only offer, the students must take. It is hoped that all students will "TAKE" at least one of the offered elements or principals from this course to plant as a seed in their mind which will help to develop their own Karate skills.

With special thanks to both senior instructors from all their students for co-ordinating and delivering this special 2 day residential course and for again offering the opportunity, for those who enjoyed this Okinawan system, to travel with them in 2012 to Okinawa for a Kazoku group tour of this fantastic island to experience its culture and possible training likely to be with many top-class, world-renowned instructors from all of the islands popular Karate styles held in the famous Budokan training hall.