I've been wanting to get to the British Kempo Karate Union summer camp for a couple of years. Whilst my style of Kempo Jiu Jitsu is certainly not identical to BKKU style of Kenpo Karate, I have a lot of time for their better instructors - particularly Kevin Mills (8th dan, based in Exeter), it's close enough that I am content that I can learn a great deal from these chaps. And, to be honest, I like them.
So, after a couple of years of being unable to make it, this year I finally managed to do so for the 3 day camp of 12-14 July 2013 based at a Scout campsite near Kingston. It wasn't fantastically cheap, at £165, but I decided it was worth taking the plunge.
So, I drove down Friday evening - unfortunately completely misjudging the traffic on the M25 so arriving halfway through the 7-9 Friday evening session. Oh well, pitched tent, came back for the end, and watched some quite reasonable groundwork - basic moderate resistance escapes from mount, being taught. Following that, some beer and beefburgers were found and we all got to know each other.
Well bed, discovering if I could still put a tent up safely (I could), could still cope with a paper thin karrimat on bumpy baked earth (I couldn't), then up not to early for the start of training at 10. I'd brought my own breakfast, but it turned out that there was plenty provided and I needn't have.
Training: we got put in three groups
(1) White to blue
(2) Green to Black
So, as a 3rd dan I got put in group 3, which I was very happy with - I knew a few people from other seminars, and as I'm usually a club instructor, I was really glad to have a chance to train all day with people at my level. There was a pretty punishing schedule of 10-6 training, with 15 minutes between 1:15 sessions, and an hour for lunch. Even better! The group was probably 2/3 kenpo-karateka, but with a reasonable mix of people like me from other styles. All pleasant, few egos, most started the weekend in bare feet and gis (no two the same!), most finishing the weekend in martial arts shoes and t-shirts due to a combination of baking sun and hardish hall floors.
Over the next day and a half our group 3 trained twice with each of four instructors, who were all very interesting, but each very different. (There was a fifth, Paul King known on Planetjitsu by another name and well regarded here, but he didn't teach our dan grade group).
So my thoughts on each instructor:-
A Swede with a background in body manipulation, both for healing and martial purposes, who concentrated upon anatomy based body manipulation particularly for uke control. He was an excellent teacher, with good knowledge, and an almost immediate rapport with his students. I enjoyed the sessions a lot, and took some nice face-based PP controls I can definitely use in my kempo.
Inventor of something called "The Approach", a striking based self defence technique, I'm sorry to say that I had an issue with Eddie's teaching. The striking techniques were sound, and the use of loud verbal warnings were entirely sensible in a self defence context, as was his use of existing body mechanics to create strong forward and backhand strikes. But the whole system seems based upon the principle of two verbal warnings then hammer an aggressor into an unconscious wreck. He told the story of his student's-student who used this approach when being verbally threatened by a yob, and then after breaking his jaw in 6 places got 12 months in prison. His lesson from this was the lack of verbal warning being given - mine was that the use of very aggressive potentially lethal force in all cases is utterly inappropriate and that students should be taught more control and decision making, and not such a black and white approach of warning them to go away, and then nearly killing them.
To be fair, pleasant chap, excellent striking techniques, the principle of verbal warning is utterly sound - but I found the judgement behind his teaching fundamentally dangerous and flawed. No way would I use this in my dojo, nor in a self defence course.
Tong Liu was a Liverpool based Kung-Fu instructor who chose to take us as the dan-grades group and teach some basic principles from his style in a way that he hoped we'd be able to take to our own clubs and styles. Apart from being a thoroughly nice chap with a fine line in banter, he was a super instructor, and brought to us some really interesting points. His use and explanation of chain punching I've been thinking about since, and believe I'll be making some significant use of in my kempo. His explanation of the use of drilling within learning, particularly in a seminar environment married well with my own, and I enjoyed his company as well. If this chap runs any seminars somewhere down my neck of the woods, I plan to be there.
Best till last! Kevin Mills is the mainstay behind the BKKU and a man whose take on kempo/kenpo I find very interesting, particularly for his research in what the KK people call Sub-Level 4 Kenpo (SL4), which concentrates upon the use of pressure points in your own body to amplify the power of techniques. Kevin chose with us dan grades to work on a lot of basic, and particularly psychological principles, within martial arts in general. There were definitely some points that I can see my using in my kempo, which has been true of every bit of Kevin's teaching I've ever been exposed to.
Four instructors I learned much from, even if I disagree fundamentally with the philosophy of one of them.
What else is there to say? Lunch Saturday was laid on for a few more quid (I didn't participate as I'd brought my own, but it looked pretty good), Saturday evening there was more food and beer laid on than as a group we cam close to consuming. Also that when I crawled back into my tent about 1am the party was still in full swing.
Sunday morning was all hands to clearing up and between us all the detritus of Saturday night became a clean orderly scout campsite again before we started the two Sunday morning sessions and everybody struck camp. Whilst I didn't have the privilege of training with Paul King, at-least I did manage to catch up with him and share some gossip - those who'd trained with him (the kyu grades) seemed as impressed with his teaching as I always have been.
Organisation? Pretty darned good - would have been nice to know in advance that I didn't have to bring all that food, and (this is perhaps only something somebody like me who's been to catering college would notice) the food hygeine at the BBQ could have done with a little better control. Both are small points - I just didn't eat the leftover sausages being cooked up on Sunday morning.
So, how good was it? Extremely - 9/10 overall, worth the money, and I'll be back next year, work and other plans permitting.
Worth mentioning that all of these instructors have websites and various videos there or on Youtube - just google their names.
Wrestle well, skillfully wield spear, sword, and dagger in a manly way. Strike true and hard and rush in - those who understand this will despise the one who defends. (Sigmund Ringeck, C15)