SENSEI Pascal Lecourt’s first South African Karate Seminar brought more than 80 karatekas to Makhanda (previously known as Grahamstown) over the weekend of October 1 and 2.
Karatekas who travelled from Gauteng included United Shotokan-Ryu instructors Alta Venter (Kamae Karate Dojo, Centurion), Hercules Jansen van Vuuren (Rising Sun Karate Dojo, Kempton Park) and Paul Da Silva (Southern Warriors Shotokan Karate Dojo, Mulbarton). Lecourt was invited to South Africa as a guest of the newly formed United Shotokan-Ryu which has dojos in the Eastern Cape, Western Cape and Gauteng.
The seminar was held in the Thomas Pringle Hall at the 1820 Settlers Monument, in conjunction with staging partner Grahamstown Foundation.
About the master
Lecourt began practising karate in 1975, and in 1976 he became a student of the legendary Japanese Shotokan karate master, Sensei Taiji Kase. Kase visited South Africa in 1964 for an extended period and was thereafter sent by the Japan Karate Association (JKA) to France in order to further oversee the development of JKA karate in that country, as well as throughout Europe.
Lecourt recounted that after his first year of training, his instructor, who had been a student of Kase’s, left Normandy, resulting in him being without a teacher.
Lecourt decided that in order to continue his training, he would travel across France to attend the twice-monthly seminars conducted by Kase.
Still a teenager at the time, this was far from easy and he would either hitchhike or travel on his scooter in order to endure a few hours of severe training.
When Kase resigned from the JKA after the death of its chief instructor, sensei Masatoshi Nakayama, he formed his own group in 1989. By doing so, he was unrestricted and able to place his own emphasis on the way in which he transmitted Shotokan Karate.
Lecourt was by this time one of his closest students and assistants and accompanied him to seminars in Europe, as well as in other parts of the world. The two formed a close bond, and during his trip to South Africa, Lecourt shared numerous anecdotes with South African karatekas.
Stick to the principles
While there are a number of Kase’s senior students teaching throughout Europe, seminar organiser and United Shotokan-Ryu chairperson Gary Grapentin is of the opinion that Lecourt’s karate remains closest to Kase’s core principles and training methods.
During the seminar, Lecourt expressed the importance of developing energy through correct breathing techniques, as well as being in harmony with oneself. His quiet demeanour, humble personality and amazing ability earned him the respect of all in attendance. One of the seminar participants remarked that Lecourt’s movements were akin to that of a tiger – graceful, relaxed and powerful with no wasted or superfluous movement.
Lecourt’s passion for teaching the “Kase way of karate” was clearly evident during his interactions with each of the students over the two-day seminar. Although Lecourt is too humble a man to ever accept such an accolade, it is clear that he has become a master in his own right – someone who has achieved harmony within himself and his art.
Grapentin hopes Lecourt will become a regular visitor to South Africa as he believes his continued input will further develop and improve standards in the way in which Shotokan karate is practised by United Shotokan-Ryu.
For further information pertaining to United Shotokan-Ryu in Gauteng or the Southern Warriors Shotokan Karate Dojo which trains in the south of Johannesburg, please contact Paul da Silva at [email protected]@gmail.com, 083 226 6474 or 079 936 8285. Please feel free to visit the United Shotokan-Ryu Federation website on www.usrkarate.co.za
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