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27 Sep

Gashaku 2013 - the report!

Written by  Sue Wharton

The sun truly shines on the SSK! Nobody dared to hope that we would have a repeat of last year’s beautiful weather – no one can be that lucky 2 years running, well not in England. However, despite a dismal forecast for the weekend it turned out to be every bit as sunny as last year. The rain stopped on Friday evening just as people were arriving and we barely saw another cloud in the sky all weekend. I expect the campers breathed a sigh of relief over that!

Friday evening kicked off with Hazel’s famous curry in the marquee. However, this was not without its problems as the cooker was not working properly – the hob was on a go-slow and the oven went on strike completely. But Hazel is not easily fazed by such setbacks and with a team effort the Indian snacks were cooked in the oven of one bunkhouse and the naan breads micro waved in the other. The meal finally came together to feed the gathering hungry masses at 9.00pm. And it was well worth the wait!

We awoke Saturday morning to clear blue skies and warm sunshine. Breakfast was an informal affair in the bunkhouse kitchens – basically that meant get it yourself! At 9.30am we amassed outside the marquee in our gi’s ready for the first training session.

This started with the now familiar run to get the blood pumping. I don’t know if the instructors were a little hung-over or something because they only asked us to do one lap of the circuit – perhaps the thought of watching us go round twice was a little exhausting? (Just kidding!)

We then grabbed our nunchukus for a session of kobudo with Steve Hegarty (he’s been to Okinawa you know – twice!). We spent the next hour twisting and twirling our nunchuku around attempting to follow Sensei as he took us through a kata. It was such a nice feeling being able to do this in the open air on the grass. Goodness knows what other campers thought of us as we twirled our sticks on chains around dressed in white pyjamas!

After a drink we then moved onto learning a bo kata. Those without a bo went with Steve Nelson to learn the zillion bunkai he knows from the kata Shihozuki. What? You didn’t think there was much to learn from that kata? Think again – you could train an army in un-armed combat from what Sensei can teach you from a simple ‘block and punch’ kata!

Meanwhile we bojutsukas were trying not to knock each other out with our 6 ft bo staffs. Sensei patiently took us through two bo kata and taught us some bunkai as well. Everyone finished with their bo intact – oh, except sensei who inexplicably decided to turn his bo into a jo by hitting the ground! Any excuse sensei to buy yourself that new bamboo bo that you’ve been after ;)

It was now time for lunch in the marquee, beautifully prepared by Hazel and her army of parent helpers.

Saturday afternoon was activity time! We all split off into our various groups to do a range of activities – raft building, kayaking, archery, climbing/abseiling and water boarding – or should that be body boarding – no, it definitely looked like torture! Several people opted for the chill out activity – you know, feet up with a good book.

Late afternoon it was time for our second training session, this time it was all about sparring. Led by Sarah, we started with some sparring techniques against the pads. This was followed by free-sparring with a variety of partners and then ended with having to pull out the white tag from each other’s belts. It all got a bit competitive at this stage and some of us ended up grappling on the ground to get the tag from our opponent (sorry about that Chris!).

Saturday evening was BBQ time! We weren’t dependent on the cookers this time since we created our own blazing furnaces to cook the food on! This was a chance to unwind under the stars on a barmy summer's evening and socialise together, imbibing much needed alcoholic refreshment. The children had the freedom to run around and play together and remained fascinated for most of the evening with keeping the fires alive, which we were using to keep warm after dark.

On Sunday we rose to yet another glorious morning! After breakfast we went down to the marquee to start our morning run. This time we had to do 2 laps except I have a sneaky feeling that many people only did one (you know who you are!).

Steve Nelson then led a session on kata, basically everyone worked on their own grading kata – except the kata squad who went off to practice for their forthcoming European competition – good luck to you all!

Finally it was time to de-camp and we all went off to pack and clean and tidy the bunkhouses. We then met in the marquee for the final speeches and awards. Steve Nelson was awarded his 6th dan – congratulations!

Mike Sheffield (not from Sheffield) received 2 awards – one for gaining his instructors certificate and the other for being the most entertaining person at the gashaku, well I think that’s what it was for (I was laughing!).

This motley crew got the award for best helpers at gashaku 


What? Your wives don’t believe you? Here’s the evidence….

Finally Matt Knight, father of student Luke Knight (sorry Luke but dad’s can be embarrassing) received the Wooden Spoon award for being unable to pronounce the word gashaku correctly, though he swears that he’s the one saying it right!

Now there was just time to eat our packed lunches (lovingly prepared by Hazel’s Army Inc.) before setting off into the afternoon sun……

The Gashaku would not be possible without the tireless efforts of both Steve Hegarty (for organising it and persuading us all to go) and his partner Hazel Wilkinson (for planning, shopping and preparing/cooking all the food for about 70 people). So a big thank you to you both for enabling us to have such a great weekend.

Steve and Hazel getting a thank you gift from Sarah

Until next year!



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