Four full days of intense karate instruction with top Koryu-Uchinadi instructors under the direction of Hanshi Patrick McCarthy. This was the North American Gasshuku that wrapped up last weekend in Cobourg On. It was epic!
The training was incredible. Exercises ranged from competitive fighting techniques rolling on the ground to practical self-defence. Substantial work was done on take-downs and control on the ground. For us Goju practitioners, there were bunkai straight out of several katas, Seiyunchin, Seipai, and Kururunfa to name a few.
For those who don't train, karate is seen as a striking art. It's true. When it comes to self-defence, the farther away the opponent, the safer the distance. This is where we like to keep things, and so we work heavily on striking. This distance is the first range of combat. However, not all encounters remain at this distance, and so you need to be able to handle yourself if your opponent grabs you and the distance collapses. This is where our sticky-hands, or kake drills come into play attacking the opponent's joints: wrists, elbows, and shoulders. I often say "The first rule of ground fighting is: don't go to the ground."
That said, it's not always up to you, and if the fight does go to the ground, you need to be able to handle yourself, and get back to your feet as quickly as possible. For myself, the ground-fighting sessions were the most enlightening of the Gasshuku. I'd like to say the seminars plugged some gaps in my budo training, which they did, but more comprehensively, they opened my eyes to other weaknesses in my art. This is the geshtalt of martial arts training that I love. The more you train, the more you realize there is to learn.