Life on the Farm

I am going to try and give an idea of what training on the Honbu Farm in Stilbaai, Head Quarters of Kushido Karate -Do International was like.

If there were no courses our day always started with a brisk walk at 5.00am for approximately 45min. Being unwell was no excuse, you had to be half dead to not go walking in the morning.

After the walk we would Train till 8.00am then breakfast. After breakfast we would work on the farm. All farm work was done by hand and was regarded as part of the training. Twelve noon till 1.00pm was lunch then back to work, supper at 5.00pm and, if you were a Black Belt, out to teach.

In reality though, there were no fixed times as such, if a job needed doing then it had to be finished, didn’t matter how long it took;  if it was midnight so be it! Next day up as normal and training as usual. Weekends were much the same. We always worked as normal on Saturdays mornings, in the afternoon we were sort of “off”.  But watering continued and water pump duty never stopped; the same with kitchen duty. Often there was no time for lunch, just work right through to get the Job done.

If we were practising Bo then we would walk around everywhere with a Bo and practice on the way there and back. As we never had any real time to ourselves we learned to make the most of what spare time we had.

 We would even practice Kata whilst resting from digging a hole.

No one can really understand how the place operated without spending time there. It was on purpose difficult all the time, never a time where you had any peace. You could be called in to do a job at any time of day or night. Sundays we had lectures, the time for this varied.

Twice a week we did group meditation. Again it was like with everything else you had to be there. It was to find peace, focus the mind and many more things. Some people hated it and came up with all kind of excuses not to be there, but to no avail. It was part of Martial Arts Training full stop.

Then there was Duty Day. On Duty Day you had to cook for everyone. If the food was not good you got a really hard time (like getting the food thrown at you). Then you had to clean up and prepare some more food. It was the most hated and difficult day. Once I was on duty for a whole two weeks since everyone else had gone home for Christmas. You had to feed the animals, milk the goats and run the water pump which is a brisk 15 min walk from the kitchen. We would often run there and back. Sometimes it wouldn’t start since it was old and it could take an hour to get it going. It had to be filled up with Diesel every 2 hours. We had to change the water pipes to water all the plants around the Complex every 20 minutes, there were a lot of pipes. We would make bread, breakfast and then train. Then we would wake everyone up and get vegetables from the garden. The cooking was done on a wood stove so you had to be on it or the fire would go out. No pepper or salt or spices only herbs from the garden.

If there was a course on there was extra pressure because all still needed to be done as well as training all day. Lectures then at 6.00pm, most would go to bed by 9.00pm completely exhausted. Courses happened all the time. When we had a month without a course it was great.

We had to attend Competitions too! If you where a Black Belt and ran an area then you had to organize the competition. It is a huge job to cater for 300 people, invite the Judges and all the dignitaries.

We had candles for light, it was a luxury to have a room to yourself. The first three months you would spend sleeping on the Dojo floor packing and unpacking your stuff all the time. The house I lived in was closest to the river and we had crabs in the lounge. Clothing needed to be washed by hand. The first three to four years I was there, there was no hot water! In winter it felt like ice falling on your head when you took a shower. You mended your own clothing with a needle and thread. The closest town was a tiny fishing village 10 miles away on a dirt track by the sea. Wow it was great to get there once a month or so. No TV, no distraction from Training. You lived breathed and slept Karate. Once in four months or so we had a bit of meat.

I remember once the generator which gave light to the main complex broke down just before a course. I was called in to fix it. All day Friday working on it with no idea what was wrong with it! All day Saturday and Sunday – then it fired up and I still don't know why!!!?? I was given a hard time because it wasn’t running.  All I could do was take it apart and put it together again, day in day out! I wanted to Train with everyone else but was stuck in the Generator Room! I made a copper head gasket for it from an old sheet of copper I found in the dump. This speeded the process up since every time I took the head of I had to replace the gasket and that had meant cutting gasket paper. The tools where basic and crude.

Once the tractors exhaust pipe broke, so I found a piece of pipe in the dump and welded it on with fence wire. I made parts to repair the carburettor. The tractor was so old we could not get parts. In Karate you have to make something out of nothing and quick! If we did something on the Farm, there was always an element of urgency about it.

The important thing is the pressure, constantly boiling us all on the Farm, it made us grow very fast. We rubbed on each other all the time as well, it was like living in a pressure cooker. Learning to live like that takes the conflict away between people. Everyone knows what they are and what they want. People living like that are at peace with themselves and have no need to prove anything. They know they can kill with a finger.

Sparing was like a survival training as we were with the top people in the system all the time. If you were sloppy you ended up on the floor and if you did not know how to fall you went down hard. I went out teaching as a third Dan Black Belt to a place where there were two Fourth Dan Black Belts, now that was tricky, I needed to be very diplomatic! I took the class and we sparred, afterwards they said “we can see he comes from the Farm, he blocks everything”.

It was relentlessly hard! We had People come and say, “oh it is so nice here, what a great place, we want to stay forever” next day they packed up and left. We had a lot of people like that who couldn’t handle the pressure. Martial Art is all about how to handle Pressure. You will not be attacked when you are at your best. More likely when you at your worst, thirsty, need the toilet and feeling rotten - then it will happen. If you cannot handle pressure then that's it - you get hammered. I loved that place, it was great honest and very Basic. I met a lot of great people there and learned a lot about people. There was absolute no Sound and light pollution if it was quiet it was absolute still, no Air Crafts going over nothing. There is no Place in Europe ho will give you that kind of Peacefulness.