Karate College ’99
by Sensei Neil Prime

As in the years’ past, I was fortunate enough to be able to participate in what I consider the most well rounded, best organized martial arts camp that is available. This year was no exception to the professionalism displayed by all the instructors, or as they are known at the Karate College “Professors” of martial arts.

The attendees from our group were Dave Bockus, Terry Tennant, Sanford De Witt, Darren Marshall, Marcel Poirier, Scott Riesbock, Duncan Wallace and myself. Duncan, now residing in North Carolina has brought his friend along the last couple of years and we have adopted a couple real good guys from the Bronx to add to our group of comrades too. We couldn’t have asked for better weather. A cold front seemed to cover the Virginia air holding between 70 & 75 degrees for the weekend. The drive is long but with enjoyable company the time goes by very quickly (except when Sensei Sanford won’t admit that he can’t read road signs!).

Karate College is much more than just karate. It really is a Martial Arts College focusing on all aspects of self-defense. Everything from stand up karate, grappling, general self-defense, pressure points and sport karate (kickboxing) is covered to give the camp participant a vast smorgasbord of enlightenment.

I noticed 2 things in particular this year more than in the past.

(1) The relationship between self-defense and kata.

(2)The implementation of boxing and/or kickboxing to the general stand-up styles.

I had mentioned in past reviews that I was tired of hearing about some of the instructors slamming the importance of kata to a karate system. It seems that kata is once again being accepted as an important part of the individual styles, however it is traditional kata that we focus on. Open kata has its’ place in competition but the focus of training your body to perform self defense is very different and I think more and more of the “non kata people” see this difference and appreciate the applications.

The implementation of boxing techniques helps develop inside fighting strength, speed and reaction time. Although in a self-defense situation you don’t particularly want to roll with a blow from the adversary, it may and probably will happen if confronted so learning the techniques of immediate retaliation is a definite asset. Teaching the body to give and receive is a big part of this training and if only for fitness and conditioning this is another reason to practice this type of art. Most kickboxing also allows leg kicks and some allow elbows too. Again, you may not want to receive this type of punishment so the best way to avoid it is to learn how to do it so you can learn how to defend against it effectively.

In past years I have learned that trying to participate in every class by every instructor is a sure way to burn out before the weekend is over. When I arrive to the camp I study the camp schedule and plan out a schedule of classes I want to attend. Unfortunately I don’t get to work with each individual this way, but I feel I retain a lot more information from the individuals that I do get the opportunity to work with.

Here is a quick synopsis of this year’s experiences with the instructors I had the opportunity to work with.

Joe Lewis:

Without a doubt, still my favorite. This year Mr.Lewis focused more on reaction and timing drills. Working off an opponents’ attack is the key and looking at every attack as a potential means of getting through an opponents defense. My own skills can be improved in this area and you can be sure you’ll see more of this in our classes.

Bill Wallace:

Again, this gentleman is always one of my favorites. Mr.Wallace was able to perform much better this. Last year he had hip replacement surgery but today you wouldn’t know it. This year he worked on setting up your technique so you would be able to deliver it to your opponent with little or no forecast of your intentions. He also worked setting up the opponent with multiple techniques to one area of the body as a set up for his real intentions. This is something we do, but not to the extent that he does and yes, we will see more drill like this in class. Mr.Wallace said “I may not be as fast as I used to be, and I may not be as strong or as powerful as I used to be… but as I get older I know that nobody has to be as sneaky as me!”

Danny Dring:

This year was the first chance I had to work out with this gentleman. Originally a Tae Kwon Do stylist, he has incorporated much of the boxing drills into his routine as earlier discussed. I spoke with others who enjoyed him more this year than previous years… could be he has been working out the bugs of teaching to a vast array of martial arts styles. I picked up some really good teaching ideas from him and found him very personable. By the way, even though his Arkansas accent was prevalent, he is born Canadian.

Chris Natzke:

He is a true gentleman and true martial artist. His kicking abilities are phenomenal to say the least. Chris adds to the college what Mr.Wallace can not due to their style differences. Mr.Wallace is a single leg speed kicker, while Mr.Natzke utilizes the powerful rear leg kicks required in Olympic style Tae Kwon Do… axe kicks and spinning hook kicks seem to be his favorites. It may require bringing Mr.Natzke to Canada for a visit to pass on some Colorado kick!

Joe Beckman:

This Aikido practitioner put together combinations of techniques that are street practical, yet he related them to general classroom basic techniques, kata techniques, and even techniques of similar style yet enhanced into the system he practices. I found him very informative but unfortunately didn’t retain a lot due to my inexperience in his style and the short practice time available.

Nick Hughes:

Mr. Hughes is always a big hit at Karate College. I find him very entertaining, yet I find little more than entertainment value from his seminars. I find that he is more focused on showing everyone how good he is (and he is good at what he does) but there is virtually no in-depth teaching involved. I went to his class late on Friday when I knew I would be too tired to workout anyway and I knew I could sit and watch him beat on his students. What the heck, this type of entertainment isn’t available everyday. Mr. Hughes has the potential to be very enlightening if he would allow others to learn what he has learned.

Greg Dillon:

Mr.Dillon is a student of George Dillman who is Americas’ leading authority of attacking the nervous system through pressure points. This I must admit made me a skeptic before the class even started due to my lack of knowledge in the subject area. I went to his class expecting to be entertained but I pleasantly learned a few things about the human body as far as nerve centers etc. Now that I have some personal experience with his philosophy I can view more openly a new area for future study. I’m not convinced I’ll change my whole way of thinking about nerve attack, but I will keep an open mind.

Kathy Long:

I was most impressed by this lady martial artist. She has the talent and conviction of a true professional. She is 5 Time World Kickboxing Champion and I now know why. The drills that we went through were fairly standard reaction and counter attack drills but I was most impressed by watching her explode into her techniques with precision timing, form, execution, and accuracy of hitting the target. Watching her in the prime of her life exemplifies the difference between professional and amateur.

Renzo Gracie:

This Brazilian Jui Jitsu practitioner relies completely on technique. Not once did I have to use strength to complete any of the techniques that he was showing us. I was fortunate enough to work out with people in our group with groundwork experience so I could grasp the techniques quicker. The opportunity to work out for a 2 hour class also made a difference in retaining what was taught rather than the college norm, which is an hour. This is Mr.Gracies’ 2nd year at the college and he is a definite asset to the curriculum.

In conclusion:

Overall the Karate College program is very stimulating. I was disappointed only by the fact that I didn’t get enough time to workout with Joe Lewis and a couple of the other instructors. I will put in a request to Mr.Beasley the camp co-ordinator, to see if there is a solution possible to allow key figures to have longer classes. He did it for Kathy Long and Renzo Gracie, so why not for Joe Lewis and Bill Wallace?

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