Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Kata: Unravelled

Learning kata for me has always been quite formulaic.

First I get to grips with the pattern step by step, turn by turn. Then I nail down the strikes and blocks. Then the stances. Then the little nuances of the kata that make it finished. Then the intensity and kime needed appropriate to the sections.

I've been back to training for almost a month (yes, I've been back and so far stayed back (except this week where I missed class because I was off work sick and my Mother always told me if you can't go to school, you can't go out to play ;)).

What I've discovered returning to the Dojo after my year long hiatus is that the process for unlearning kata seems to unravel in a similar vein to how it is learned in the first instance.

There is a Friday evening class now specifically dedicated to kata. A great opportunity for me to see where the land lay with my kata having missed so much training.

Interestingly, for my lower kyu kata I still (mostly) had the patterns and movements and some of the intricacies down. The thing that was evidently missing was the intensity.

For the higher grade kata my learning had unravelled to the point that for some of them I struggled even with the pattern. That meant any hope of intensity, intricacy, stances, blocks and strikes was long lost. It's pretty much impossible to be intense about a kata when you can't even remember which way you're supposed to be facing!

So begins the (hopefully-not-too) slow process of piecing my kata back together. I've decided to focus on them one at a time until I can drag them back to a place worthy of my shodan belt. First up, Bassai Dai. Wish me luck, I may need it!


Tuesday, 28 March 2017

To (re)begin at the beginning.

So, confession time.

I don't believe I have set foot in a dojo for over a year.


I decided in January last year that I needed to take a clear cut break from karate training. I'd been dabbling on and off for months but couldn't seem to get a grip on it. Work commitments skyrocketing alongside other health stuff meant I couldn't give it all I wanted and then felt guilty about not being able to fully get committed to training. I emailed my Shihan and told him I was taking a completely break for a few months.

A year has passed.

I honestly don't know how that has gone so quickly. Literally blink and you've missed it.

A year on and am considerably wider around the waist and considerably less fit than I was when I was at the height of my training. I've been dabbling with running (not great for my knees) and weight training (not great for my boredom level) and can't seem to get to grips with anything fitness-wise.

Still, at the back of my mind, the little inner karateka niggles at me. Can you ever really turn it off once it's awake? Martial arts scenes in TV programmes, videos in my YouTube feed, articles from long forgotten sign ups to martial arts newsletters in my inbox. Every where I look and listen it's whispering at me.

So, after my year long hiatus, I am heading back. I have dusted off my gi, Facebook messaged my (long-suffering and very understanding) Shihan and made arrangements with the husband for childcare duty. I am dojo bound this evening.

I. Am. Terrified.

A year is a long time with no karate practice. I find myself endlessly trying to run through kata in my head (and some of it is far too murky for my liking!).

After some stern self-talk and some deep breaths I conclude that the only route forward is through Shoshin. Beginner's mindset. Forgetting all that's gone before and focusing on relearning from the start. Re-beginning, at the beginning.

The journey of a thousand miles, and all that good Eastern proverb kind of stuff.

Report to follow....


Friday, 20 November 2015


So, after my recent karate related vacillations I'm back in karateka mode. I've managed to get a good couple of weeks of consistent (twice a week) training in. I'm slowly picking back up all the little things I thought I'd forgotten.

We've been working through higher level kyu kata and 1st Dan kata indepth (which has been great for me to really nail those back down) and we're about to begin on 2nd Dan kata next week.

I have a copy of my 2nd Dan syllabus (nothing I wasn't expecting in there that needs to be covered) so I can start focusing on the parts that involve me having to present and/or bunkai syllabus elements.

I feel my karate mojo slowly returning.

It feels good.

I think I like it.

Happy days.


Monday, 10 August 2015

Knowing When to Cut and Run?

Words to describe my karate journey of late (like the last 2 years late).

I feel like I've lost the thread that kept me focused on what I loved about karate and I can't seem to grab the end back. I have a few weeks where I'm back at things and seem to be getting a grip on it again and then I'm back to square one of feeling lost, unsure and ungrounded about the whole thing.

I'm working hard at the moment, mentally, to try and unpick what's going on. Family trauma's aside, the past few years, what is it that's made something I loved with such passion something that has me confused and unsure?

There are changes to me, that's for certain. My priorities about my time and what I do and have to do have changed with changes to work and the kids getting older and the arrival of the gigantapuppies.  Physical changes within myself - I'm not getting any younger. My knees are not getting any less knackered. My back is not getting any less decrepit!

There are also club changes that have occurred while I've been sporadic in my attendance. It's inevitable I suppose when a club starts to grow past a certain size that politics will start to play a part. When the club is big enough for politics, but not so big that the politics can be impersonal then it can have a big impact. It brings with it an element of negativity that I've never seen before, which makes me uncomfortable. It impacts on my desire to be there. Even with deliberate non-involvement it impacts on my training, on my thoughts about training, on my experiences there.

These things make me harp back to an earlier time. When I could see my reasons for being there. They were clear to me. My goal was clear to me. My learning was clear to me (even if I didn't always feel it was going in the right direction). Clarity brought (mental) comfort and a sense of belonging. I feel apart from things,  but I know that a huge part of that is of my own doing.

I don't know if I can see a "forward" from where I am at the moment. I know things cannot go back. It's a futile exercise in life to expect otherwise, but I'm asking myself if I cannot go forward, or backwards then does that mean it is time to stop trying to go anywhere but sideways? Does there need to be a step away. A real one. A cut and run. Am I ready for that? Part of me says no, but what is that part holding on for? If it's the wrong reasons then holding on is the wrong choice.

Am I making this more complicated than it need to be?

Who decided life choices were supposed to be so hard on the brain?

Off to mull things over more.


Don't feel like I know myself at all when it comes to this question at the moment.

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Dropping The Plates

How many "hats" do you wear in life? How many plates do you spin?

For the majority of us, it's a lot.

Money Manager


For me, the last one always seems to me the plate that has to be allowed to fall. To keep my sanity I sometimes can't keep all those plates a-spinning.

When something has got to give, it's easy to let the karate training plate fall, for a number of reasons:

- It takes up big chunks of time out of the house at fixed times
- It needs lots of logistically planning to fit it around other people's schedules
- As its something I do for only me it feels selfish to prioritise it
- It requires motivation (harder to come by than hen's teeth I think)
- It requires energy (the first thing to go when the plate spinning gets overwhelming)
- It involves social communication with other people (something I struggle with greatly. I do not find it easy to work and play with others!)
- If I do have "free time" it's easier to fill it with more sedate things. Reading, crafting, watching TV for example

Of course there is a flip side to this. The positive things that I get out of it when I do keep that karate plate spinning:

- the fact that I eat better when I'm exercising
- that despite the lack of energy I have when I'm overwhelmed getting back into training ultimately gives me more energy
- that when I get there I realise I do miss seeing my fellow karateka
- that it provides me with moments of peace away from the hubbub of everything else
- that as far as "me time" goes it is usually time well spent
- that it improves my physical fitness (I work at the top of the building, 6 flights of stairs is a long way when your fitness level is in the toilet!)

The worry is, at least one of the plates have to give. I cannot spin them all. I guess I need to take a close look at which other one can be made still if I'm going to set the karate plate back on its journey again.


Friday, 24 October 2014

Mojo: Unearthed.

There seems to have been some karate mojo unearthed around here.

A hint of a karate pulse.

I made the decision that I needed to run with it. It's been absent way too long. Waned way too much. Rule #1 Work with what you've got.

I've made it to the dojo three times in the last seven days. Eight if I get there tonight as planned. I can feel the excitement of karate study returning.

I'm re-reading this:

Living the Martial Way

Which always serves to perk the karate neurons up and I've ordered a couple of other martial arts related books in an attempt to keep the mojo flowing.

From my recent training sessions I've identified quite a number of areas I need to work on (not all specifically karate related):

1) Posture.

My posture is officially appalling. I spend 90% of my working day sitting at a desk (badly!) which results in extremely short hamstrings and a very flat back. I've been making a conscious effort to improve my posture in all things (sitting, walking, even sitting in seiza). Obviously it's not something to improve overnight but I'm hoping being more aware of it will eventually make an impact.

2) Flexibility.

Again, pretty appalling. Partly I think this is linked in with the posture. Bad posture leads to short hamstrings which leads to poor flexibility. I'm going to try to incorporate some stretching exercises. I bought this book a couple of years ago which has some great techinques targeted for martial artists so that will be getting a revisit:

Ultimate Flexibility

3) Stances.

Again, born out of the first two issues, some of my stances need some work. Not really my more grounded stances (Kiba dachi, shiko dachi, sanchin dachi) but the more mobile stances (neko ashi dachi, kokutso dachi) which much pressure more specifically on one knee need some work. My left knee is pretty weak at the moment and is the one that consistently gives me the most problems.

4) Kata.

The majority of my Kyu kata are good and strong. My Bassai Dai (as ever) needs work. What is it about that kata that plagues me so? I also need to work on improving my Shodan kata (Sanseru and Sepai) before I even think about continuing work on my first Nidan kata.

It's a quite a list to work on which could probably feel like a negative, but it's not all bad. My basics are strong still (hurrah for many hours of kihon!), my understanding of principles is still there (lurking in the fog of my karate brain). I'm still able to think with a karate mindset.

So, whilst it's been a while, clearly all is not lost.

Sincerely hoping the karate pulse continues to beat for a long time to come.