This year saw the looong awaited return to our traditional training ground at the Ogwen Bank Country Park in the beautiful foothills of Snowdonia in North Wales. This was a particularly emotional return to form as it was our first since our founder and dear friend Sensei Spanton passed away in 2020 and also because of the long break due to Covid-19 which has had such an impact on all of us.
This year, the 50th anniversary, was all about honouring Peter's legacy, reaffirming our commitment to each other and taking Higashi into the future.
Ian Clark, from our newest Higashi club - Kimesanchin Martial Arts Academy in Yateley - had this to say about his time at Ogwen:
It started with the four of us in Neil's car. 8 hrs there but it flew by as was such a laugh. By the time we arrived we all had various nicknames. We were setting the stage for the rest of the weekend :)
We met up with most of the group in the Bull pub that first night and a couple too many Guinnesses may have been drunk by someone who, for legal reasons, I can not name. Let's just say his Ogwen nickname was 'Mr Dead' and leave it at that. It's hardly worth mentioning the pain in my legs all weekend after the drunken wall scramble I helped Mr D. accomplish later that same evening.
So, first morning's training was great. Fighting on the banks of the river Ogwen was just brilliant. Only thing was I made my leg worse by twisting it whilst fighting. Oops. I hopped around Ogwen after that, and that's when my second nickname came into existence - 'Old Hoppy'
My first one was 'Uncle Ben' as I was cooking us all rice a lot (I say cooking but I was really just chucking packets of Basmati in the microwave.)
Anyway, the second class was kata and bunkai with pinan katas and followed by Higashi kata in the afternoon.
That evening Mr Dead and I were boring and stayed in the chalet whilst our Brothers in Arms went out on the lash.
Sunday morning fighting with big sticks. Great fun
Heard a few yelps from some of my fellow Karateka as they missed and hit themselves lol.
More Car Park Kata and Kihon Gumite in the afternoon followed by a proper old school Dan grading with Brad and Simon.
That night most of us met up at an American diner in Bangor. Note to self: Don't order Nachos from Henry's.
Then dropped the lads back at the pub whilst we shopped for more grub at the Tesco store conveniently located half a mile from the caravan site.
So, last day's training and after the first lesson it was time to remember Sensei Peter Spanton as Sensei Jon scattered his ashes in the river Ogwen. It was followed by a min's silence and a lot of watery eyes.
He will be sorely missed and never forgotten.
After the Tanto Dori lesson we all gathered round and it was at that point that Sensei Steve reminded all the Higashi members that first timers to Ogwen jump in the river unless they'd rather be chucked in. I mentioned they would probably get a hernia so I reluctantly, with head hung low, walked towards the cold, icy water and jumped in. It was bloody freezing!!!
So a cold, drenched and totally knackered Uncle Ben hobbled back to the chalet, got showered and packed, and after lots of goodbyes we all got back in Mr D's car and drove 6 hrs back home.
I ached for 3 days after and had the best fun and training.
Thank-you to ALL Higashi members You all made me feel very welcome.
Massive Congratulations to
Simon 'Hammerfist' Mills and Brad 'Baby' Bell on their gradings
Proper grading just like they should be.
Ogwen 2022 Roll of Honour
Steve Bell, Jon Dunn, Michael Clancy, Michelle Dunn, Ray Conway
Guest of Honour: Sue Skinner
Neil O'Connor, James Beck, Brad Bell, Tony Sergent (Whitley);
Ian Clarke (Kimesanchin); Simon Mills, James Harvey (Maldon);
Nici Lintern-Gittens, Alison Lintern-Gittens (Cardiff);
Susy Soravia (Cross Hands); Phil Woodfield (Liskeard & Looe)
Paul Cullum, Ben Taylor (Swindon);
Jason Sheridan (Sligo); Tony Duffy (???);