Training with Sensei Velibor

I along with approximately 60 other students attended a weekend course with Sensei Velibor Dimitrijevic. Those of you who have not trained with him before were probably in for a bit of a surprise as his approach to teaching karate is somewhat different from other Shotokan instructors.

So I am going to approach this report differently from the normal course reports, instead of informing readers of what kihon, kata and bunkai we did I will try and explain the fundamentals that Sensei Vebo is teaching (at least from my perspective and the affect it has had on me). When you have trained with Sensei a few times you realize that the combination or kata is not the important thing, it is how we do it and how we generate the power (or try to!).

Sensei Vebo first came to my attention when my instructor, Sensei Norman Gomersall trained with him in 2006 on an ESA course. Norman came back to the Oxford Club singing his praises, he said “you have got to go and train with this guy”. Now we had trained with Sensei Kase and Sensei Dirk Heene on many occasions and now Norman was telling us, go and follow someone else as well. So we did, we went for a 5 day course in Loutraki, Greece that same year and we have been going every year since. We have also trained with him in the UK and Europe and we are trying very hard to use the methods that Sensei Vebo is teaching.

Sensei has studied Sensei Kase’s karate to a level that he has been able to comprehend the fundamentals and interpret them in such a way that he can now teach others. He has worked out through breathing, timing, stance and contraction how to generate the power. This must have taken years of dedication as it is one thing to understand it yourself, but another to be able to affectively teach it to others. This is much harder than showing students, blocks, punches, kicks etc. as this you cannot see. You feel it, it is below the surface, it is mental as well as physical.

Other instructors are being influenced by Sensei Vebo, I often train with Dirk Heene and he is using some of Vebo’s techniques, for example hands in the belt (normally behind your back) when stepping forward, backward and at 45º and turning, so that we concentrate on the legs and not the hands. Try doing katas with your hands behind your back, it makes you focus on your stances and puts a new perspective on the kata. I practice katas this way, some are very difficult to work out as we are used to being led by the hands. When we start karate we are taught the hand movements first, punching and blocking. We are then shown how to move in stances and when it comes to doing kata, we have to do complicated turns as well as blocking and punching. We are told about the breathing being important but how many of us paid that much attention to it?

When members of the Oxford club started training with Sensei, we basically had to take apart our karate and analyze what we were doing. Everything we took for granted, every step we took with a punch, block or kick we analyzed again with breathing, tightening of the hara and the legs. We had seen Sensei Kase slap his belly and point down to the floor saying “more pressure”, but we didn’t really “get it‟ because we hadn’t been shown it in the detail that Sensei Vebo is explaining.

Sensei will spend sections of courses just on the Ibuku breathing methods as he says:
• the stronger the Ibuki, the stronger the technique will be
• the shorter the Ibuki, the sharper the technique will be
• When you want to punch faster, do not think about punching faster, but rather try to exhale shorter (often, if you think about punching faster, you will tighten your muscles and actually make the punch slower)

Ask your instructor (if he/she went on the Grimsby course) for a copy of Sensei Vebo’s 2010 Course Bulletin, or if your instructor can get hold of a copy. It explains about Kase Ha karate, about Budo and outlines the concept of internal and external power, and the importance of doing proper stances.

I know we have very good instructors in the ESA and many of them are using the methods taught by Sensei Kase and Sensei Vebo, but I think they will admit Sensei Vebo is rather special. If you are interested in budo karate, I strongly recommend that you go on a course with Sensei Vebo. The next course is in November at Nottingham.

Myself, Mick Rice from the Oxford club and Sensei Alan Armstrong will be training with him in Sweden in April and I am sure he will deliver another excellent course. Thank you for your time in reading this short article, I hope it has been useful.

I will finish with words from Sensei:
“In my Karate method I’m trying to intertwine two fields, or two dimensions, of the human existence, physical and spiritual. Physical is the tangible, and spiritual is not. We use our mental power (mind), trying to develop physical body intelligence, as a result of our Karate-Do training.
Breathing cultivates this physical intelligence, and that is the reason we have to be very persistent in implementing specific Ibuki breathing in all aspects of our practice.
In order to harmonize and unify all this efforts, centralization is the key word. It means to focus all our actions, physical, mental and breathing, to one point (Tanden) in our lower abdomen (Hara). This is Budo approach.”

Report by Dave Evans, Oxford Kase Ha