Six weeks ago UKBF director Julian Mallalieu and his student Gareth Beaumont travelled to the United States on a most memorable trip as Julian graded (on the mat) 6th Dan under his teacher Demura Sensei, Gareth was awarded 1st Dan in Batto and Julian brought home a gold medal in kata competition.

The trip started for Sensei Julian and Senpai Gareth with flights to Santa Ana in Orange County. This is the location of the Honbu dojo for Genbu-Kai and the home of Shihan Fumio Demura.

Julian says: “There was no rest for the wicked as we got our Gis together and headed straight in the direction of the Dojo for what we thought was one class. It was in fact two. The first being focused on basics, combinations, blocks and ippon kumite. The second class was primarily looking at the details of the Pinan kata amongst others. Both classes were headed up by Senpai David Heinz. The classes lasted around 2.5 hours. It was now time to get some food and head back to the hotel as we had been up for a good 27 hours at this point!”

Thursday was a little more relaxed as they had time to have some breakfast at the hotel, gather things together and then drive to the shopping mall with the spare hour before the Thursday lunchtime class. Julian recalls: “The class was under the direction of Sensei Fumio Demura and was a session of running through kata after a good stretch warmup by Senpai Roy Center. The day was not over there for Sensei Julian as he had a black belt class to attend in the evening. Chatanyara Kushanku was under the microscope in this session so needless to say it wasn’t an easy one! Early nights were needed though as Friday was an important day and an early start.”

Friday morning started as an early arrival at the dojo at around 08:30am. This was an opportunity to get your hands dirty with the traditional Mochitsuki (rice pounding) ceremony. It was then time for grading day! First up, Senpai Gareth who was grading for Shodan in Batto-Do. The grading lasted around an hour and was able to pick up some pointers on technique post-grading. There was then the Kobudo grading for those involved.

Following this was the Karate black belt gradings with Sensei Julian going for Rokudan (6th Dan). Julian recalls: “To say it was hard work is an understatement. Three difficult kata in quick succession. Suparinpei, Kururunfa, and then Chatanyara Kushanku! There was thoughts of calls to 911!”

Both Sensei Julian and Senpai Gareth passed their gradings in front of Sensei Demura so that is a memory and experience to cherish. The day wasn’t over yet. Gareth has another class to attend. This class was for the Kyu grades and was working on Itosu Rohai Shodan under instruction of Senpai Thanh Nguyen.

The evening was a meal in a Chinese restaurant but there was also a screening of “The Last Dojo”, directed by William C Ford, in which he recollects his memories of Sensei Demura’s old dojo and an interview with the legend himself.

Saturday was the opening ceremony day of the Genbu-Kai Goodwill Tournament and was to be as busy as any other day and started with the Kobudo kumite and kata tournaments. On closure of that tournament, the Batto-Do tournament began and Senpai Gareth had to enter the in order to perform the cutting section of his grading. It was going well, 3 clean cuts but the 4th pulled early and didn’t cut all the way. He will always remember to get his distance correct from now on and a valuable learning experience.

There was then a break of about 1.5 hours whilst the rest of the Batto-Do tournament came to its conclusion. Following that was the 2 Batto-Do seminars. The first was working on the Suishin-Ryu kata. The second was working on all of the Suishin-Ryu Kumitachi. There was plenty of confusion and the grey matter was definitely working overtime.

Following on from the Batto-Do seminars we went straight in to 2 Kobudo classes. Sensei Julian was working on Sakagawa no Kon Sho and Senpai Gareth was working on Shushi no Kon Dai. The second class was working on combinations for attack and defence. The second class was run by special guest Sensei Bernard Edward.

Before close down on the Saturday a memorial service was held for Senpai Byron Fennema for people to pay their respects and to share their memories.

Sunday was the busiest day in terms of competitors as it was Karate tournament day. Kumite and Kata of all ages, grades, and weight divisions. Disabilities were also encouraged which was great to see and displays how inclusive Karate actually is.

Sensei Julian was competing in the Elite/Veterans section for Kata. He competed with Seienchin, Annan, Annanku and Matsumura Rohai. Gold was brought home for Genbu-Kai England. Great work Sensei! The evening was a gathering at a local pizzeria of Genbu-Kai students from USA, Canada, Chile, England…

Monday was to be our last day training before we head back home on the Tuesday. There was an afternoon class at the honbu dojo where everybody was working on basics and tanren kumite and then kata. Sensei Julian was working on Chinto and Senpai Gareth was working on Itosu Rohai Nidan

Julian recalls: “After the class, a handful of us joined Sensei Demura at a Japanese market where we had food and Sensei shared some of his stories with us. The evening consisted of our final class and it was focused primarily on Kata called out by Sensei Demura and then more tanren kumite.

“And that was the end of the training in the USA. Tuesday morning we arrived at the dojo to say our final goodbyes to everyone and collected certs and passes for the students back at Tameside Karate before heading back home.

“It was a fantastic week, albeit tiring but well worth it and looking forward to the next time.”