Master Alexandris visits Bandon

Master Alexandris visits Bandon

Master Vasilis Alexandris arrived Thursday evening for his first visit to cork, and as event organiser I was delighted to collect him and transport him to what would be his new home for the next five days, the beautiful harbour town of Kinsale. We stopped at Charles Fort, the historic site of the 1601 Battle of Kinsale, to offer Master Alexandris a taste of this historic town in a picturesque location overlooking the town which offered a feast of photographic material. After plenty of photos were taken, we adjourned to The White House to check our guests in to their accommodation. Dinner and some Irish traditional music ended this first evening with our honoured guest. Friday morning we began our sight-seeing with a trip to Cobh Heritage Center. Cobh is renowned as the final port of call for the ill-fated Titanic, and with this being the 100-year anniversary of that final call, it made for an interesting time to visit. The center quickly brought Master Alexandris up to speed with Ireland’s history and heritage. Being from Greece, he is well used to a culture renowned for its myth, legend and historical consequence; Ireland has plenty to offer in this way, and we hoped to share as much of this with him as we could in the 5 days.

We enjoyed the fact that he was arriving to a heat wave and so we could compare with Greece in terms of good weather. A trip to Fota Wildlife Park allowed us to fully enjoy this tropical warmth and take plenty more photographs before lunch at The Elm Tree. Middleton was our next destination, as we stopped for a brief visit before making our way to Killeagh village. This was where Master Alexandris became a guest of honour at his first hurling match. At 7.45pm, following a welcome by Bandon GAA club secretary Don Desmond and West Cork GAA delegate Gerald Collins, we watched Bandon attain victory with a winning score of 2 - 18 to Watergrasshill’s 13 points. Master Alexandris was informed that he was officially the spectator who had travelled the furthest distance for a club match. The master had previously been presented with a hurling stick and sliotar in Greece, but only now did these items finally make sense to him. Many of the impassioned sideline coaching calls had him a little confused as to who ‘Paddy’ was, and why it was that he and no one else seemed to be called so very often. In preparation for an early start the next morning for the start of the first day of the seminar, we made our way home from Killeagh and retired early.

Over breakfast 9am next morning at The White House, Master Alexandris’s response to my question of whether he would like to do anything in particular before the first seminar, was ‘Do you have your dobok?’ Yes it was time to get to work, no more sight-seeing; Master Vasilis Alexandris added a new event to the schedule - 10am to 12pm training on black belt practise with myself, Mr. Leonard Coughlan, Robin Ford 6th degree from Boston, Lincolnshire, who had travelled from the UK that morning especially for the seminar weekend, and Mike Mouratidis, 3rd degree, who travelled from Greece with the master.

The junior seminar started 12pm; this group of under 12’s were taken through warm up exercises and developmental games, within a very simple structure. Master Alexandris brought these young people to a focus and level of development of flexibility at an extremely high standard. This was achieved in such a short time because of the excellent preparation and experience demonstrated in the lesson plan. His philosophy is that juniors must enjoy their training, and the effectiveness of his training methods is founded in this ‘fun side’ being equally matched with technical practise and development. The focus and dedication that makes up the hard work of training was ingeniously woven into games where the standards of excellence achieved were a testament to this method of practise. The seminar finished with a group photo, and Master Alexandris invited all students for individual photographs. The final photo of the day was taken with himself and junior student Leah Barbado, green tag from Mahon TKD Academy, demonstrating full side splits to the applauding audience. After a light lunch in the academy student lounge, an ITF pioneers DVD from the 1973 German tour was screened.  All the seniors were treated to  Master Alexandris’s recollections of the people on screen; he talked about these practitioners in personal terms, as many were close friends, and offered many insights that the students would not have been privy to if just reliant on the screen. All seniors present enjoyed these stories, and then at 4pm the practical side of this senior seminar began. Technical movements covering all aspects of Taekwon-Do brought the students to an awareness of the technical proficiency required at a high level of practise. Through a sequence of well organised training, the tempo was such that the finish time of 6pm passed unnoticed until 6.30pm. ‘We can stay to 11 no problem,’ was the Master’s response to being told the time. Were it not for the fact that the official welcoming dinner was planned for that evening, the students would happily have taken him up on this offer. Kinsale’s gourmet delights beckoned and so dinner at The White House was attended by the students of the Bandon and Mahon club, the participants of the seminar, boxing coach Mr. Ben Coughlan, and event sponsor Mary Coughlan, of The Armada Bar Kinsale, where we went later, to enjoy the music of Melody Mystique with Yvonne Coughlan and Paul Connaghan.

Sunday, after our now usual 9am breakfast, properly began with yet another unscheduled training morning. Master Alexandris once again covered black belt patterns and we learnt them easily because his highly organised teaching methods are the model of efficiency. The senior seminar began at 12pm, and quickly brought the students to the next level from the day before. Full sparring equipment was necessary, as this new day brought participants to a more advanced level of drills. The development sequence dictated that as each drill finished, the main points were covered with detailed explanation and demonstration. Greater levels of understanding and application were achieved this way. The scheduled 2pm finish was moved to 2.45, as both students and teacher made time for a speech about remaining open to all forms of training and to new ideas. Master Alexandris asks his students to take the best of all training methodologies, such as those of boxing, kick boxing, and karate; he believes ‘if it is good we should use it’, as it is all relevant. People must enjoy training, and though the sport of Taekwon-Do is very important, it is a martial art first and foremost, and so all students and instructors need to be concerned with the development of the whole martial art, not just the sport. This talk finished the senior section, and then a presentation of an Irish-made brass clock was made to the Master, which displayed two hands in friendship and was inscribed, ’From all your new friends in Ireland.’ Master Alexandris surprised me with a gift of a miniaturised replica of a Spartan helmet, and all of this gift-giving naturally led to photographs again. The seniors left looking forward to the Greek summer camp, August  6-13. Special thanks to black belts Mr. Robin Ford, 6th degree from Boston, England, Mr. Ruairi O’Brien, 5th degree from Cashel, Co. Tipperary, Mr. Liam Corkery,  4th degree from Kinsale, Co.Cork, Mr. Mike Mouratidis, 3rd degree From Thessaloniki, Greece,  Mr. Felix Finke, 2nd degree from Cahir Co. Tipperary, Mr. Sean O Broin, 2nd degree from Kilbrittain Co.Cork, Mr. Adrian Kenneally, 1st degree from White church, Co. Cork, Miss Sarah Sheehan, 1st degree from Mahon Co.Cork, and  Miss Aoife Ni Bhroin, 1st degree from Kilbrittain Co.Cork, for their participation in the weekend training seminar.    

The final junior seminar started at 4pm, and this was a no nonsense immediate start. Master Alexandris didn’t stand on ceremony; he was ready to begin, and with an introductory bow he brought all with him into an immediate practise. Development games once again covered all aspects of training: speed, agility, awareness, tactics, teamwork and technical proficiency. Fitness and flexibility are paramount, training must be fun, and students must focus on flexibility, for attaining it at a young age helps to keep it through life, as opposed to trying to develop it later in life. The impact of the junior training can be summed up in a statement by one of these young participants on the club Facebook page: ‘ Thanks Sir, for the great weekend of training with Master Vasilis Alexandris. I really enjoyed it and I learned a lot from it’ (Dylan O Callaghan). After the obligatory photographs, the Instructors sat with Master Alexandris to discuss their programmed training regimes, and he offered advice on the general development of training and running clubs. He believes in the inclusion of different classes for differing age groups, and made special reference to older age groups of 45-60. For martial art development, courses need to be appropriately designed so that they can be enjoyed by all ages. He also made the points that 360 jumps and spinning kicks are not always necessary, and that all ages can make a valuable contribution to any club. Training for him is for life, not just to attain levels. He recommends making a plan for the future and for all students to train for life. Soon this conversation had to end as we needed to get to the airport for Mr Ford’s flight back to the UK.

A quiet farewell dinner at Jim Edward’s restaurant gave Master Alexandris his last evening in the good food circle of Kinsale. He shared further stories of his life in Taekwon-Do, and thanked all for the hospitality that he had enjoyed during his stay. The airport drive at 6am Monday morning marked the end of this remarkable five day visit. Thank you, Master Vasilis Alexandris. I look forward to repeating this successful event in the future.

Leonard Coughlan III Dan

Posted by Stephen Ryan