Instructors Retreat – 2023

The first Shotokan Connect Instructors Retreat was held this year at Lilleshall National Sports Centre.  The retreat was designed with the association’s values in mind.  The weekend was all about the sharing of knowledge, skills and experiences for the benefit of all in a safe, exciting and progressive environment.  It really was a place to train, learn and develop together. 

After a morning of travelling to our amazing venue (some journeys proving more eventful than others), we had a chance to catch up with old friends and get to know new ones over lunch in the very impressive Lilleshall Hall.  At times it felt more like we were in a National Trust venue, with its impressive Manor House and stunning grounds.  Lilleshall Hall is a 19th century stately home, amidst 200 acres of English Heritage grade II listed grounds in the beautiful Shropshire countryside. An idyllic venue for our instructors’ retreat.  We were treated to world-class training facilities, very comfortable rooms and plenty of food (as long as you got there while they were still serving).  


Once we were checked in and fed the retreat started with a short welcome by sensei Birch (chair of the Shotokan Connect Steering Committee) and then straight into our first session.  

Kata standardisation by Ivan Birch and John Parnell

Our initial excitement quickly vanished when we learnt we were going to go through and standardise all the kata in our system.  Thankfully, this didn’t mean performing each kata in turn but instead focusing on the common errors seen in each kata and discussing any areas that cause confusion.

Seminar - Understanding the physics of karate by Ivan Birch

A chance to rest (in nice comfy seats/sofas) after the last session and learn how body mechanics and physics impact on our ability to do karate and deliver more force with our techniques.  Some complicated physics equations broken down and made relevant to karate techniques and principles.

Training session - Effective Karate, applying physics to techniques by Ian Harman

Next it was time to put theory into practice, with some ideas of how to use physics when teaching karate.  Starting with simple routines that build into well-known combinations, but with an emphasis on the physics involved at each stage.

Membership platform, ideas for the future & photoshoot by Blyth Baker and Leanne Hayes

Shotokan connect is always looking for ways to improve, both in karate and in the way it helps and supports its members.  The development of the membership platform will definitely help in both these areas.  Keeping our association at the forefront of technologies and giving members access to a wealth of information all at their fingertips.


With our brains full of new ideas, and bodies feeling the ache it was time to clean up and refuel with some dinner, again from the onsite canteen.  The rest of the evening was spent relaxing and socialising with like-minded karate-ka.  Much needed conversation and plenty of laughter.

Day two began (after breakfast, of course) with a demonstration from Blyth and Leanne of the new merchandise online shop, and an explanation how this can be utilised by individual clubs.

Seminar - Safeguarding by Lesley Brook

We all know safeguarding is important, but this seminar also gave useful tips that can be utilised by clubs every day to ensure that all of our members remain safe.  It also provided an opportunity for instructors to share ideas and experiences, resulting in some practical strategies for all to use.

Training session - Teaching basic jiyu kumite to mixed abilities by Jamie Sims

After a quick warm and stretch, the criteria for effective kumite was discussed and outlined, whether this be for competition or for gradings.  This was followed by a chance to practice several techniques and strategies that meet the criteria.

Training session - Bunkai ideas for senior grades

What a great way to finish the weekend, small groups working together to create some effective bunkai to our chosen kata.  Always fun to share ideas and try new things.  Then sharing these with everyone else.  A lovely collaborative exercise that highlights Shotokan Connect’s commitment to developing karate-ka of all capabilities at all levels.

The retreat concluded with an opportunity for feedback, and a thank you for and from all involved, and of course lunch (food became an important theme over the weekend).

Selection of photos from the event:

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