Canada Shotokan Karate conducts Canada East and Canada West special practices known as “Special Trainings” twice a year, usually in the winter and summer. These are the most important events for any karate student, for they allow one to push oneself to one’s limits through intensive training periods from three to four days in duration, with several practices each day. Many students agree that Special Trainings are the most demanding and strenuous mental and physical experiences of their lives.
Special training has its origin from the Japanese term gasshuku, which is a very traditional idea of a whole group staying together for training pushing each other to do their very best.
The beginning student is allowed to attend Special Training with the consent of the instructor, based on physical condition and knowledge of kata, kihon, and kumite. During the longer Special Trainings, closed practices are held for black belts and brown belts in addition to the general practices.
The individual is given the opportunity to train with a large number of members of all ranks from many dojos, who gather to increase their self-awareness through this rigorous training. The event is usually held in a large facility such as a private boarding school where students all share the common experience by living, eating, and training together. Separate facilities are always provided for men and women students. Special Training represents an opportunity for the serious karate student to advance himself both mentally and physically. No drinking, taking of drugs, or sexual activity is tolerated.
In line with the martial arts tradition of “what you begin you must finish,” one may not leave Special Training until it is officially over without the permission of the chief instructor. Any student who breaks this rule automatically loses his membership in CSK, and will never again be allowed to practice with any CSK dojo. There is absolutely no exception to this rule.
Special Training has come down to us from martial artists of the past who sought a way to put their mental and physical powers to a test by calling upon their innermost strengths–strengths that you will realize you also possess after this intensive training experience. Indeed, to put ourselves into hardship, to push ourselves to our physical limits and thereby to strengthen our mentality, and to see ourselves with clearer eyes are the ultimate goals of this practice.
At Special Training we are learning to face ourselves honestly and strongly. The importance of Special Training is clearly articulated by Ohshima Sensei:
“I hope each time you make special training everyone keeps up a good spirit until the very last punch. At this moment you will see yourself wake up in your life. If you can live every second like special training, you can have moments when you can taste your life. So, when you suffer, you thank heaven that you can really feel this moment. Your mentality, the deep part of your mind, your willpower or subconscious comes up very clearly. You can see yourself straight, strict and honest. That is what special training is all about.”