The annual black belt gasshuku, held over the first weekend of February each year, is one of the highlights of my karate calendar.  It offers a focused time to connect with our fellow black belts, reflect on where we are in our journey, both individually and as a group, and set our sights on what we want to achieve in the year ahead.

The black belt gasshuku is a special experience.  It is certainly different from all other gasshukus, but it is difficult to articulate exactly what it is that makes it so.  Perhaps it is the comfort that comes from sweating with individuals who you have trained with for a lifetime, the excitement of welcoming new black belts into the fold, or the camaraderie that comes from sitting with old friends around the campfire in the evening.

This year was no exception.  Sweltering 35-degree heat on Sensei Annelise’s beautiful fruit farm in Vyeboom provided the perfect setting for (not so) gentle hill sprints, the hauling tyres to better understand our bodies’ mechanics, the learning of a new kata, and the fiercely competitive obstacle course that is an integral tradition of the black belt gasshuku.  We emerged as an aligned, unified group, ready to take on the challenges of 2023.