When I was growing up I spent a great deal of time with my grandparents. We had the best of times during regular trips to Cornwall to visit my great Auntie and Uncle to holiday with them in Saltash.
The trip from Portsmouth became a familiar one and the sight of the Tamar bridge invoked excitement and anticipation. Back then it was the 1980’s and Grandad would be driving his Vauxhall Victor or Cavalier. Fast forward fifteen years and it was me driving my Fiancee’s Polo and my travel companions would be members of the SEKU squad heading to the Saltash dojo for our bi-monthly 4-hour long squad sessions.
Jump forward another fifteen years and Sensei Matt Smith and myself were back on the A38 heading down West but this time to teach at the dojo of our newest affiliates at the Dobwalls Dojo. Dan Walton along with his brothers grew up with us in karate. We competed together, trained together and had endless amounts of fun together.
As we drove down Matt and I discussed old times and confirmed that for us the best thing about karate is the people we have met and the experiences we have shared. Since we formed the AKA in 2015 the association has grown beyond our initial aspirations and this trip was beyond our expectations four years ago.
When we arrived the sun was shining and the traffic had been kind. To our surprise both Paul and Anne Walton were there to greet us also. Even better Paul was going to train! This was completely unexpected and if I am honest made me personally a little nervous. Paul and Anne had started the Dobwalls dojo back in 1989 and it was a very successful club along with Lux Park. They were always at Competitions and would bring a coach full up often sharing the journey with the Plymouth dojo. Once at the competitions they would work tirelessly all day on the tables supporting the smooth-running of the day and contributing to it’s overall success. The Waltons are the dictionary definition of a ‘karate family’.
Whilst unloading the car we spotted another familiar face, our great friend Jason Hollister was also there to train. I love karate!
So with banners up and Gi’s on, the dojo filled and we commenced the class. I began the warm up with stretching and ground based kicking drills. This then developed to a flowing kicking drill exploring angles, relation and form. Sensei Smith then explored Heian-Shodan, emphasising timing and form with a focus on Kokutsu-Dachi and appropriate weight distribution. This then flowed into a partner-based Bunkai drill terminating in ground work and effective throws and locks.
The sun was shining and the dojo was full of heat and effort. It was quite simply a lot of fun. I then finished the class with a return to the kicking drill, this time exploring it in context against two attackers and then finally applying against the full dojo as a target recognition drill for the students to take away and remember.
We finished the class with the obligatory mokusu and thanked everyone for coming. The focus now was on the three youngsters grading for the first time with us.
Children are the life-blood of karate. That is a fact that no one can argue. The five of us along with the Walton family and many of our other friends graded, trained and competed together as far back as the 1980’s. Perhaps in twenty years time the Juniors who graded here could be leading and developing the club while we support them in other ways. The only way to know is to give them the opportunity.
Sensei Walton has been working really hard on their development and this was clear to see. Nerves aside Josie, Dexter and Toby showed bundles of spirit and some excellent form for their level. The Walton pedigree is there for all to see and the next generation is pushing it forward. We are proud to be part of it.
Post grading we had a lovely meal with the Walton family and the time flew by as we laughed and discussed old times. Sensei Smith and I then jumped back in the car and headed home along the familiar route.
Somehow the drive to and from Cornwall had been a constant in our karate lives and we are thrilled it continues to be the case. To our budo friends from the South West Old and new, OSU! See you next time.