Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Sempai Me.

Wow, has it really been two weeks since I last wrote about karate? Blimey. I was off work last week with the kids to give my parents a break (summer holidays are a killer on your childcare arrangements) and the week just seems to have gotten swallowed up in a black hole of Disney channel, Moshi Monsters, park visits and icecream eating.

So, what's been going on in Cookie family karate land? As I mentioned last time, Shihan and Sensei Chrissie have been on holiday the last few weeks leaving us in the very capable hands of Sensei H. It was really interesting having a different instructor. I love how you get a whole new take on things which can really help cement your learning.

Shihan and Sensei being absent also left a Sempai spot empty for Gracie's class which I happily stepped in to fill. What a great experience that was. The kids are great (for the most part) and it's fun to help them learn and to see them progressing. It was quite funny as they're all a little bit afraid of Sensei H (I told Grace that she was the master of wicked warm up session and I think it might have filtered down to the rest of the class! LOL). She certainly didn't take any nonsense from any of them and gave them a good drilling in basics as well as some fun games (with a little healthy competition). All in all it was a really good experience and I wouldn't hesitate to do it again.

She was a little less gentle for the Monday adult class - my gluts are killing me this morning from holding stances forever! I know the only way to get better at my stances is to work them though so I don't really mind.

The Sunday class was particular cosy this week with just 4 of us in attendance (Kendo was busy at home cleaning up after having removed our old back boiler and hot water tank - what a messy job that's turned out to be!). It was a good opportunity to work on kihon for us, especially some of the advanced strikes and stances, and to work on kata. The great thing about there being so few students is that Sensei was able to pick up on areas where our stances aren't quite right, or our blocks/angles needed tweaking. That one on one time for kata is invaluable I think. We could quite easily go along doing it incorrectly otherwise. I'd much rather be picked up on it now so I can make sure its getting imbedded in my muscle memory the RIGHT way!

It's back to business as usual from next week so we'll see what interesting stuff Shihan has dreamt up for us while he's been relaxing on his hols. I dread to think what he could have come up with with all that time on his hands. I imagine it'll probably hurt though! LOL.


Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Take Control(s).

You've heard the saying "be careful what you wish for"?

Well, I wished for opportunity to practice my controls and escapes and blimey if I didn't get that in spades at training last night.

As Shihan and Sensei are going away on holiday for a couple of weeks (leaving another of our Sensei's ((is that the plural or is it just Sensei?? Hmmmm. I'll have to double check that) to take the classes) Shihan decided to throw something a little different into the mix this week. Ordinarily we don't work much control and escape work in the Monday class so it was interesting to see how people got along with it.

We worked wrist controls, shoulder controls and arm bars from blocking (inside and outside) into controls and also worked some escapes (from strangles, head locks etc). I usually end up partnering with Louise (my fellow green belt) or Sensei Helen for these kinds of techniques (we're similar sizes and builds) but last night I ended up partnered up with Jon (blue belt). He really is an amazing karateka. He knows his stuff really well and excutes all his techniques to a really high standard. I really do like working with him because he doesn't go too lightly on you. Always put the controls on properly and tells you if you haven't got the control in place properly on him. He also doesn't move unless you move him (which makes for much more realistic (as realistic as it can be in the dojo setting) practice.

The only downside to working with Jon? He's so damn bony!! Doing blocks and punches with him has left me with a delightful array of forearm bruises this morning. See:

Jon, if you're reading this, you're gonna have to put some meat on those arms dude, seriously, you're killing me! LOL.

I really tried to concentrate on getting the controls and locks on well which I've been guilty of not doing way too much. The best part was working random punches so you don't know which side to work until you actually implement the block. It's great for working your muscle memory - you just have to deal with what you get. The block itself is becoming instinctive now..... hopefully the follow through will start to become second nature too. I'm going to have to line that hubby of mine up for some practice. Thankfully that's one of the things we can practice easily at home.

Sadly the time went so fast (when you're having fun?) last night that we didn't even get chance for kata practice or kumite so I'll have to make sure I work on my kata at home in the week.

Kendo and I have both started back on a 12 week training programme (fat loss and muscle building) this week. Last time we did this (starting in February) I managed to shed 2 stone (28lbs) and I still have some more to lose so hopefully I can start shifting my baby belly (can't really blame that on Ewan any more being that he's almost 4 now!!). Back in the gym tonight for the first weights day of my 3 day split (chest, triceps and abs) and tomorrow I'm thinking of taking a yoga class at the gym. I really need to improve my flexibility, particularly my hamstrings. My recurrent back problems have left me with shortened hamstrings and problems with my pelvis in my pregnancies mean I'm not as flexible as I'd like to be. I'm hoping the yoga will help me work on that some.


Monday, 2 August 2010

All About The Bunkai.

Sunday training last night and it was a really interesting class for a couple of reason.

There were only a few of us there as it's the start of the holiday season. Just myself, Kendo, Jon (blue belt), Sensei Chrissy and Shihan Dave. Such a small class (particularly in the adult class) brings a number of advantages, and what could be a big disadvantage!

The good side is that you get to work more indepth on things. We worked more complicated pad drills than usual (my shoulder is still grumbling from elbow strikes, it doesn't like those much) and Kendo and I got to work on our 10 step taisabaki and iron out a few kinks which was great because it's a requirement for our next belt grading.

The down side of course is that any mistakes you make are more glaringly obvious as Shihan has much less people to look at. That was the cue for me to completely forget all the escapes/controls we've worked on. Soooo frustrating. We've done these things countless times but when it comes to thinking on my feet I make the same mistake of thinking TOO MUCH. I over analyse instead of just reacting. I know that ultimately I should be able to end up with a control no matter what course of action I take. In a real life situation I can't ask my attacker to start again why I get it "right". I just frustrate myself so much because I over think it all the time. It's like banging my head against a brick wall. I know that the reaction is going to come with practice, that my muscle memory will eventually kick in this control situations (some times it does and I really feel like I'm connecting with the movements) but I annoy myself by letting my brain get in the way.

The smaller group and therefore more intense escape/control training also highlighted another bad habit of mine which I'm increasingly aware of which is that I don't "finish" the control. I don't see the movement through to a conclusion (the preferrable one being to ensure that your opponent doesn't get back up, obviously). Again I think practice is the only thing that's going to fix this. I need to get more confident with the escapes and controls until they're second nature, then I can look for the finishing strike.

So much to learn!!

A good portion of the class was spent on Kata (yey! My favourite part of karate :)). The small group gave a great opportunity for Shihan to pick up on areas where individuals needed correcting (stances, blocks etc that needed tweaking). It was good to have feedback on all of the kata we've done so far. It's easy to get caught up with the ones you're working on and let the others slide. We also did a very interesting exercise where Shihan had the four of us stand back to back in a square and perform the first of our Tagioko kata. We all know this kata, its the second on our syllabus, but it was really funny just how much concentration we had to put into it when we were faced with performing it in a different orientation than usual. I don't think any of us realised quite how much we associate the turns etc in the kata with our relative position in the dojo. Your brain is clearly thinking...okay, for the next part I'm turning towards the stage wall, for this part I should be facing the door. It was funny to do the kata without that association. Proof that we should try to avoid marking our kata out by external landmarks I think. Food for thought.

For me, the best part of the class was Shihan talking us through Bunkai for the kata I'm currently working on. The whole process of bunkai totally fascinates me. I love seeing how the movements in the kata can be applied. It makes the whole thing make much more sense to me when I can see what each movement is supposed to be doing. It takes them from just a random series of actions into something that actually has meaning and practical application. I think it gives a much better grasp of how to perform kata. I can't believe some schools don't do any bunkai at all. I can't really see the point of learning a kata by rote with no idea of what it's supposed to do. That seems like folly to me.

I've been struggling a little with this kata. Even Kendo commented whilst I was practicing at home the other day that of all the kata we've done this is the first one he's seen me look uncomfortable with. There's a lot of concentration on breath and stance in the kata (not to mention 2 evil, evil turns that have me wobbling all over the place!!) and whilst I've gotten the pattern down to pat pretty quickly I'm struggling to execute it well. I'm hoping that the study of the bunkai is going to help with that some.

More opportunity to practice tonight at the Monday class anyway. I'll see if it can actually help me improve any.

© Cookie Family Karate
Maira Gall