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Showing posts from August, 2009

Decadal Gashuku Part 2: Ten Blind Masseuses

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My favourite passage in the Hagakure1 is the one about the 10 blind2 masseuses. I have copied it below:“Once a group of ten blind masseuses were traveling together in the mountains, and when they began to pass along the top of a precipice, they all became very cautious, their legs shook, and they were in general struck with terror. Just then the leading man stumbled and fell off the cliff. Those that were left all wailed, ‘Ahh, Ahh! How piteous!’ But the masseuse who had fallen yelled up from below, ‘Don’t be afraid. Although I fell, it was nothing. I am now rather at ease. Before falling I kept thinking “What will I do if I fall” and there was no end to my anxiety. But now I’ve settled down. If the rest of you want to be at ease, fall quickly!’” – Hagakure (Book of the Samurai), Yamamoto TsunetomoI first read that in 1985. It's a shame it hadn't sunken in by the time of the Decadal Gashuku (training camp) held in the first 2 weeks of 1990. All the fretting I did leading up…

Decadal Gashuku Part 1: The Foreboding

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It's hard to believe we are rapidly approaching the 20th anniversary of the Decadal Gashuku, a martial arts training camp held by Lao Shi Bob Davies at Midmar Dam in Kwazulu Natal from 3 to 13 January 1990. It was an international event comprising 2 separate 5 day courses. Some of us (the "decadal participants") were there for both.

For those unfamiliar with the gashuku (training camp) concept, it typically features 8 hours of training/instruction per day. The decadal participants were in for a treat; we would have 10 hours instead. It was the theme - 10 lots of everything.

To better fill you in on the picture I should rewind a little.

My wife Maureen and I were newlyweds and I had freshly graduated from law. We wanted to go overseas for an adventure but we didn't have 2 pennies to scratch together. I had a job lined up, but wouldn't start till February. So we decided to take out a loan. Given my degree and my upcoming job, the banks fell over each other to …

Running with Bob

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In 1991 I had a visit from one of my former karate classmates in South Africa, Peter Banks. Peter started training shortly after I did, but where I was a fresh-faced teenager, Peter was already in his late 30s. And where I was pencil thin, Peter was not. To be blunt, he had a sizable middle-aged spread.

Imagine my surprise when, almost a decade later, Peter turned up at our dojo looking like an iron man. The paunch was no more. In its place was the proverbial "six pack". It was something I never imagined possible with Peter. "How did you do it?" I asked.
     He replied: "Running with Bob".

He was, of course, referring to our teacher Lao shi Bob Davies. I immediately understood how Peter had achieved his remarkable transformation. If you could keep up with our teacher you couldn't have a paunch. The 2 concepts were mutually exclusive.

I cast my mind back to my visit to Lao shi Bob the year before. My wife and I had arrived at his house in Durb…