Sensei Velibor visits St Helens

Excitement, that’s how the first day of a course always starts. A certain buzz that today’s training is going to be good. So far, courses where Sensei Vebo is in charge have never disappointed.

As the dojo came to order at 12 the anticipation of what was in store for the next 4 hours was tangible. The session started with a warm-up, an introduction and background from Sensei and then we got our chance to start. The theme for the weekend was breathing and ground connection.

The first thing we started with was a kihon pattern moving in different directions to get us used to anchoring, moving and turning on the same leg, adding the techniques of breathing in made what was an easy to understand combination increasingly difficult to do. This turned out to be the theme for the weekend, breathing as the method to support and unlock your technique.

Four directional kihon was how we started but it didn’t stay as a simple pattern for long, the addition of breathing patterns, new techniques, ways of moving, turning, stepping and kicking all contributed to making the kihon anything but a simple exercise. By the end of it was a kata in its own right! The second half of the day was trying to put into a practical application the elements from the morning which was easier said than done. The patterns weren’t overly complicated to remember but to do well, or rather, to do to a level that you would feel happy with, was very hard.

The second day was a much more gentle start, which I was glad for as there was a great generosity and hospitality from the people of St Helens the night before. Rather than the external warm up focus of the first day we focused internally on breathing and some stretching exercises and by following the methods I was warm and ready to go. Looking around the dojo, it was clear to see from the sweat on peoples’ brow that they too were ready.

We started day two with a repetition of the early kihon of day one as it was the important part of the course, linking the body, mind and breathing. Kata played a big part of the session as we took the first parts of the heian katas and broke them down into ways that made the application easier. Before doing the application with a partner we added the breathing techniques from the first day. Regardless of the amount of times we did the kata the breathing makes doing them different, in some ways, making them feel like new katas.

I had the fortune to practice the applications with a partner who was able to handle the attacks I was throwing even if some of them went a little awry. It made a huge difference to be able to put everything into a technique and know that even if you do mistime the attack or over extend that you’re not going to cause someone else pain – well, not in the dojo anyway.

I found the course material easier to understand than I have found in the past, I hope this is because I’m better now than I was, it might be because his method of teaching or understanding of the subject is better or I listened more, I’m not sure which but it made for a hugely enjoyable weekend.

There are no secrets to Sensei Velibor’s teachings, time, belief, practice of the things he’s teaching.

John Sharp

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