the corona chronicles – day 4

today dealing with the pandemic is going to get just that little bit harder – the schools are closing. never mind the possibility of a visit by the grim reaper or food shortages, but the prospect of being quarantined at home with the kids for the next 12 weeks must be a realisation that is sending a chill down many a spine up and down the country.

our friends from chelmsford karate have put together a few fun puzzles suitable for young kids. it probably won’t keep them occupied for very long, but every little helps. click on the links below to download (those are pdf files which you will need to print):


word search 1

word search 2

tiger colouring

also, many clubs are offering on-line classes. i will put together a list which i will publish shortly, so stay tuned. in the meanwhile – keep calm, but stay isolated!


the corona chronicles – day 3

i’ve got muscle aches. no, don’t worry, it’s the good kind. i’ve been exercising daily and the aches are just a sign i hadn’t been doing it enough, but also that at least i’m doing the right thing now.

another form of exercise, which is also excellent for enhancing your well-being is yoga. yoga improves strength, flexibility, balance and body awareness – all very useful in karate. yoga is also a good way to stretch aching muscles and leaves you feeling nourished and reinvigorated.

there is no shortage of videos and resources on the internet and i will let you do your own research to find something that’s suitable for you. if you’re not sure where to begin look for “yoga sun salutation”. that will help you sort out your down dogs from your up dogs.

one thing i do want to add is that good technique is as always crucial for maximising the benefits and avoiding injury. if you’ve never done yoga (and even if you have) the video below is a very good introduction to the basic movements and techniques in yoga. enjoy!

the corona chronicles – the late edition

nothing to do with karate, but i’m bored, so here goes anyway. it definitely has to do with the corona virus.

on monday i want to the supermarket. more concerned about avoiding crowds than actually buying anything i went an hour before closing time. the place looked like any other supermarked on a typical day. that is if you were living in soviet russia sometime in the 70’s. rows and rows of empty shelves. and i’m not talking about toilet paper. there wasn’t even a single pack of chicken of any kind left.

ok, that i can understand – you can freeze chicken – but no bananas? ok, i suppose you can bake banana bread and freeze that. explains why there was no flour of any kind either.

WhatsApp Image 2020-03-16 at 9.37.11 PM

i did find some duck. just the last one. but then you begin to think “what’s wrong with it that nobody wanted it?”. i boughted thinking that if i cooked it the next day it’ll probably be alright. it was.

anyway, i loitered around knowing that staff start stocking up the shelves at that time. they obviously work through the night, so i could not hope to get much in the short time before closing, but i remained optimistic. sure enough they brought out some baked beans. i even managed to get a four pack of reduced sugar baked beans. just because there is a pandemic raging doesn’t mean i’m going to stop looking after my waistline.

feeling pretty lucky i headed to the checkout just as the announcement came to urge shoppers to do the same. then home.

today i went again. in fact i’ve only just come back.

as much as it’s hard to imagine it was actually worse. the place was stripped bare. it was as if the store had only just been put up and and was still waiting for the first delivery of goods. other shoppers like myself were roaming the aisles with empty trolleys looking for something remotely edible they could purchase. on and on we went like lost souls searching for a hidden aisle that had somehow escaped the swarm of shoppers that in the hours previous descended upon the place like a cloud of famished locust. as if somewhere in that place there was an aisle from a harry potter film. a magical aisle number 9 and 3/4. you just needed to know which wall to ram into.

“did somebody discover that over-eating is effective against COVID-19 and forgot to tell me?” i wondered. it was as though the population was planning to eat its way out of the pandemic.

a polite announcement came reminding people that they were now restricted to a maximum of three units of each product. if the person making the announcement was taunting the shoppers then their tone, devoid of any irony that was clearly present, did not betray that.

still, i managed to pick up four lemons and some fresh figs. that’s the sort of thing you can still find – stuff you can only have in small quantities or over-priced luxuries. so couldn’t find ketchup, but there was plenty of tabasco sauce and marmite if one is so inclined.

anyway i kept strolling through the empty aisles waiting for the trolleys to come out. like a vulture circling above a dying animal waiting for it to take its final breath. on my way i passed by the gluten-free section, which had somehow survived the onslaught. if you are unfortunate to suffer from coeliac the good news is that at least you can get some food. and all those people who are “on a gluten free diet because it’s healthy” – liars!

finally they started to come out. the trolleys. i quickly scanned one – some uncle ben’s red sauce of some description and more baked beans. having no interest in the former and having already bought some of the latter on the previous visit i quickly moved on. i only had a few precious moments before closing time.

i moved from aisle to aisle looking for basic necessities. they brought out some super strong flour which i needed, but it was all the way at the bottom of the trolley and i knew they wouldn’t get to it in time, so i moved on. tissues? could be useful, but i had enough.  nappies? thank god i don’t need those.

then i struck gold. PASTA! yes, of course it was italian pasta. the other stuff only looks like pasta. admittedly it was de cecco and being something of a snob when it comes to anything to do with food i usually only eat barilla, but desperate times. moving nonchalantly, so as not to attract the attention of other shoppers who might beat me to it i moved towards the prize. like bilbo sneaking up on the sleeping smaug, i made my way towards the single carton of fusilli pasta glistening in glorious isolation against the desolation of the otherwise empty shelving unit. having finally got there i quickly grabbed two packets. yes, i could have taken a third, but i’m a snob, not a pig.

one final scan to see if there was anything else and then to the checkout. on the way i had an itch in my nose and instinctively i gave it a good rub. i rubbed my nose with the same hand that was grabbing the trolley’s handle a moment ago. the same handle that had been touched by scores of people in the hours before. could this be the most expensive pasta i’ve ever bought? well, at least i won’t die hungry.


the corona chronicles – day 2

early days, but so far so good. no serious karate withdrawal symptoms so far. oh yes, and no corona either. anway, his came up on my feed which is quite apropos – a 12 week workout plan:

i’ve often stressed the importance of cross training and the current predicament could be the perfect opportunity to workout. i’ve tried it myself and it’s a good workout with a good emphasis on core strength and functional exercises, which make it a good complementary training to karate.

some important pointers:

  • briefly skim through the video before you start to check that you understand all the exercises. once you start training you don’t want to have to pause and rewind.
  • start at the pace you can maintain. each video is a 30 minute workout including warm-up and cool-down, with quite a few short breaks throughout, so net working time is 15-20 minutes. try to find a pace that will be challenging, but one that you can keep without stopping other than during built-in breaks.
  • maintain good posture. keep your spine straight as much as possible. this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s always upright, but it should be straight unless the exercise specifically demands otherwise (e.g. forward fold). when performing exercises such as squats hinge from the hips, but keep the spine long and your chest up.
  • engage your abs. not just for exercises like plank or crunches, but throughout. for example when doing leg lifts imagine it is the abs that pull the leg up. to engage your abs pull your bellybutton into your spine and keep it there! yes, throughout.
  • protect your knees. when performing exercises such as squats, lunges, side lunges etc, make sure your knees are in a good position. the knee or knees bearing the load of your body should be directly above your foot with the heel firmly planted. when doing squats send your weight back as if sitting on an invisible chair, with your weight into your heels, not your toes.
  • keep your shoulders soft and relaxed. when lifting your arms make sure not to engage your neck muscles but do engage your lats to keep your shoulders in.
  • quality and not quantity. whilst the pace is important for building endurance you will only benefit if you do the exercises correctly. you’ve got 12 weeks of this, so focus on doing it well and building from there.
  • if you enjoy the workout remember to give heather the thumbs up and like her video.

if you can’t tell your deltoids from your glutes here’s an overview: muscle groups of our body

enjoy the programme. your journey starts here: week 1 / day 1

the corona chronicles – day 1

Yesterday the government advised to avoid “all unnecessary travel” and consequently i suspended all training. i promised everybody that i would be posting ideas for training at home,  so i thought i’d start straight away. “no time like the present” thing.

i filmed a short sequence and checked the result. i wasn’t happy at all. i can be quite critical, but frankly, i haven’t been training enough myself. so that was short-lived, at least for now, but not entirely useless. just filming myself for a few minutes and watching the result gave me a few things i want to improve. after all, the japanese word for training is “keiko” (稽古) which means something like “reflect on the wisdom of previous generations”, so reflection and examination should be integral to karate training.

and there we have it – your first training tip: film yourself and then examine the result. you will be able to see what i see when you train in the dojo. you will notice some of the things we work on (e.g. are you striking to the correct target? is your hikite tight? etc.). then it’s just a matter of: film, examine, improve, repeat.

As a possible exercise i can suggest the following:

standing in shizentai (natural stance) perform choku zuki (straight punch): 10 times slow, 10 times fast and 10 times double punch (do 5 starting on the right and 5 on the left). that’s 30 punches in total. film from the front and from the side. makes 60.

now examine the video and find just one or two things you’d like to improve. repeat as necessary (perhaps also in kiba dachi).

you can also make your own exercises. if you practice kata i recommend breaking it down to short sequences. fix on thing then move on to the next. remember to film front and side as each one will reveal different details.

enjoy and send your comment!


This Christmas – a political message

I should probably know better than to mix karate with politics, but something has happened, which is so big and significant in our lives, that I feel it trumps such sensibilities.

Brexit has been a divisive issue in our society, but last night it became an inevitable reality. Both Neil and I have been deeply saddened and angered by the decision of the British people, but most of all I think it’s left us heartbroken.

If the UK had not been a member of the EU I would have never come here. Neil and I would not have met and Kanshin would have never been created. Shotorama and all the other special and wonderful things we dreamt and created would have never come to be. Likewise, many of our members, past and present, would not have come to these Isles, lived and trained amongst us and touched our lives. For Neil and I that is the true meaning of Brexit. We are faced with the loss of something very dear and fundamental in our lives that it is almost like losing a loved one. Simply put, we are in mourning.

All the while we are also acutely aware that our country is in the midst of a social crisis. A crisis of homelessness, of poverty and of children going hungry. This Christmas there will be children going to bed on an empty stomach and young people sleeping out in the freezing cold. This is not happening in some third world failed state, but here, in the world’s fifth richest country.

So here we are, the nightmare of Brexit will now become our reality. It will make things worse not better, especially for those vulnerable communities that voted for it. The forces that conspired to bring it about are too great for us to tackle, but perhaps this Christmas we can make a difference in the lives of just a few people. Perhaps in this very dark hour we can shine a little light of hope even if for a moment.

Neil and I have each given £50 to The Number Five Project, a charity that provides night shelter for homeless people. We have also decided to dedicate all proceeds from Neil’s upcoming session on 28 December to that charity, so participation will be free. If you intend to come and train or just feel sympathetic to our cause please consider giving as well. We hope that with your help we can double our contribution and reach our target of £200. You can donate here.

In any event, we are still all karateka and we hope to see you at the event, which will be free, regardless of your thoughts in the matter.

Guest instructor – sensei Rosie Lau

I am very excited to announce that sensei Rosie Lau, 4th dan, has agreed to join the club as a guest instructor.

Rosie is an excellent instructor who some of you met at the bojutso special session. Rosie normally lives in Manchester, where she trains under sensei Harford, but is currently in the south on project work. Rosie will be teaching the Monday lesson regularly until the end of October when she is due to return to Manchester.


special guest – sensei Cristina Finta

we are very pleased to be hosting sensei Cristina Finta, 4th dan, this sunday, 3 march. Sensei Finta is a fantastic instructor as well as a member of the KUGB England kata team and has already won many awards in competitions.

14:30 – 15:30 all grades
15:30 – 16:30 black and brown belts

Price: £7 per person or just £5 for SHOTORAMA unlimited (bring your wristband!)

special guest instructor: sensei Cristina Finta 4th dan

upcoming events

i am very excited to announce a number of exciting events planned over the next few weeks:

saturday, 30 june: special seminar
14:00-15:00 – introduction to bojutsu
15:00-16:00 – karate forms: meaning, purpose & application

sunday, 8 july: special training and kyu grading with sensei garry harford, 8th dan
11:00-12:00 – all grades training
12:00-13:30 – kyu grading
13:30-15:30 – black & brown belt training
venue: the rising sun karate academy, winston churchill sports centre, gu21 8tl woking

thursday, 12 july: lesson with sensei neil jerome, 5th dan
20:00-21:30 – neil will be teaching our regular thursday class

sunday, 15 july: special session with sensei neil jerome, 5th dan
14:00-15:30 – all grades
15:30-16:30 – black & brown belts