With a bag over my shoulder I set off alone for Dartford at 9.30. I knew it was going to be long trip so I had packed my ‘Roy Chubby Brown’ Autobiography and my notepad for the train ride just in case I had an epiphany and needed to write it down.
Surprisingly enough, no epiphany came; instead rude conductors who I swore I was going to comment on in my write-up herded me cattle-like into the train.
The ride in fact was not all too bad, and when I got off my final train in Dartford I was met by Paul Herbert who was there to kindly collect me from the Train station.
After a great afternoon we set off for the course, which was to be held at Paul’s dojo at the Darenth Community Primary School in Dartford. After a setting everything up for the course, Sensei Hazard arrived, shortly followed by Terry Oliver who I had never met before, but quickly came to learn was a very open man and karateka.
After a nice long warm up before the course, Sensei called line up for the all-grades session. Wherever we train with Sensei Hazard, we always train on the mixed grade classes. We always learn so much from these sessions, and this class was no exception.
Sensei taught a foot movement combination involving a step into zenkutsu-dachi, shifting into kokutsu-dachi, then back into zenkustu-dachi. This was the junior grades sequence, replacing kokutsu-dachi with nekoashi-dachi for the seniors. After working on the leg movements, we added the arms oi-tsuki, gedan barai and gyaku-tsuki.
Sensei Hazard has this exceptional ability to take a relatively simple sequence and open your eyes to things you had never before considered. Everything in his karate serves a purpose, and when he teaches, he opens your eyes to a standard of karate that you rarely see elsewhere.
This session presented a challenging type of body movement, with all of us struggling I’m sure to get that transition from zenkutsu-dachi to nekoashi-dachi to flow properly. Sensei however gave us some great pointers about nekoashi-dachi and the movement into and out of it, which helped to no end. When this sequence was then placed with a partner we really got to see how Sensei’s earlier points really affected how they work against a real target.
The second session of the night dealt with ‘Sochin’ for the brown and black belts. When Paul and I talked about the course I had mentioned that I would like to learn Sochin under Sensei Hazard.
For me, this kata has been an enemy of mine since I was younger, and I had always struggled to make this kata sit nicely on me. Despite feeling that Sochin would never be ‘My’ kata, I knew if there were one Instructor who could change my mind it would be Sensei Hazard. And my god did he.
Sensei Hazard opened my eyes to a kata I had never liked or enjoyed performing, so much so that since that course, Sochin has been the kata I have practiced most. Like Hangetsu, this is a strong rooted rather than a lightening speed kata, which Sensei perfectly illustrated when he talked about how this kata should be performed. He mentioned that if you practice all your kata with the same intent, then they all start to become the same. He said each kata has their own personality and they should be performed accordingly.
With this in our minds, Sensei Hazard really did get the best out of us, and by the end of the class I certainly felt connected to the kata. Before I had, as Sensei puts it ‘Made shapes’, but after his tuition, I was executing the kata with a more accurate mental approach.
Punctuated throughout this class, Sensei taught us kata application, and this got us all very excited. With brilliant control and skill Sensei highlighted the finer points of the kata paying meticulous detail especially to sequence just before the first kiai. This applicated sequence had us all sweating up and down the hall, all with the determined mindset of Sochin.
This course as usual was a terrific insight into what karate is truly all about. In karate, I can at times place personal limitations on my abilities, whether subconsciously or on purpose. Sensei Hazard however has a pedagogical skill that motivates you to the point that you push beyond what you believe you could do. For example, if we’re doing a punching sequence on a Dave Hazard course, I can punch much faster than if I were training elsewhere. My body hasn’t changed for the course, but Sensei Hazard knows exactly which taps to turn to get you working better and harder than you normally would. So if there’s anyone on the course thinking how bad I was, please don’t imagine what I’m like when I’m not on a Dave Hazard course ha ha.
Over the years, Paul Herbert who runs Shoto Promotions has hosted some of the top instructors in the world, the likes of Senseis Dave Hazard, Craig Raye, Ronnie Christopher, Terry O’Neill, Richard Amos, Harry Cook and Simon Staples. The course was a great turn out, big enough for a great atmosphere to brew, but small enough that you get a degree of personal tuition. Shotokan Wayer’s, please do keep an eye out for some of the excellent courses going on at Dartford SKC as you’ll kick yourself if you miss some of the courses that Paul has lined up for the future!!!