Visit to Brisbane (Dec 2004)

In December 2004 I returned to Brisbane Australia for the best part of a week to once again spend some time training with Bob McMahon, 6th Dan and Chief Instructor of the Australian Karate Academy.

The material covered on this trip built on from what I had learnt on my last trip and nuggets gleaned from subsequent conversations, research and practice. During the intervening year I did some independent research using various books and publications - some of which contained little of overall value but sometimes there were little gems tucked away in the writings, and others like the Shoto Journal which are great value but are limited by my own level of understanding rather than having the "good stuff" obscured by the padding which sometimes occurs in publications in order to give readers the illusion of value-for-money. Some things which had puzzled me at the time but which I learnt mostly by rote for later study crystallised in my own mind, which as often as not raises the beginnings of yet more questions.

The 5 day period included 8 training sessions, half of which were regular classes and the rest solo sessions, and a grading. In the course of these sessions I was taken through some of the function from kata including Pinan Nidan, Naifanchi Shodan and Bassai Dai as well as practice of the forms and some Bo kata and Sai kihon.

After the early Friday morning arrival I met up with a net friend from Wollongong NSW, who coincidentally is known also as Mick (this is your Honourable Mention ;-) ), and then we proceeded to Bob's dojo, via breakfast and a coffee or two. This early morning session was spent in large part going over Naifanchi Shodan, a slightly different version to the one I previously knew, including some applications and utilisation of the kata and some of the principles contained therein.

Later the same day we returned for another session and looked at Pinan Nidan and Bassai Dai, and some of the "tricks" in the performance which are not particularly visible to onlookers but are at the core of some of the principles tucked away in kata. Then of course it was time for a drink and Bob invited us back to his house for a meal, a couple of beers and the requisite guitar playing.

Saturday took us to one of his regular classes with a Kobudo session and some practice preceding the grading scheduled for the afternoon. (I was to be one of the attemptees with a view to having a previous Shodan grade confirmed.) The grading basically comprised kihon, kata and kumite and while it was not particularly lengthy it was quite intense and it was therefore necessary to travel up the road afterwards for some socialising.

Sunday was perhaps one of the highlights, being that I was given the Key To The Dojo (though I did later have to return it) for some practice whilst Bob was otherwise engaged, and this time was spent revisiting the material covered thus far.

Monday and Tuesday included regular scheduled classes where I met some more of Bob's students and partook of the training which revealed more of his training methods and the ideas he has tried to explain in writing through internet chat. Once again it was shown that what can be a long and painstaking trial of explanation in text can be accomplished very quickly with hands-on instruction and correction so that practice can be undertaken outside class time to reinforce the techniques.

The end result of the 5 day visit was a better grasp of some of the half-understood concepts gained from the reading I had done as well as the realisation of some things I had grasped more by intuition than by conscious learning, some training methods to apply in classes and months of further practice and study to start bringing the elements together into a coherent (mostly) whole. Although I will qualify that with the statement that every time I think I understand something I find more unanswered questions looming!

- Mick Todd