Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Acceptance of Truth.

I’ve had quite a productive training week this week in terms of karate sessions – a good session both Sunday and Monday night (not so much at home… but that’s a whole other story). That’s not really what I’ve been mulling in my head to post about today though.

Monday night at training Shihan said something that’s had me thinking all day. He’d made a silly reference to some mystical mythology in response to what a student had been doing. He joked that he shouldn’t really say that because I would probably take it as gospel and blog about it. It was only a passing comment, an off the cuff remark, but it’s had my brain whirring a little today (nothing like a bit of self analysis on a wintery Wednesday morning! LOL).

Clearly, I wouldn’t take what Shihan said in this instance as Gospel……..but I do in other things. When he (and the other Sensei) talk about things karate related, I do take them at face value. At this point in my training (12 months into my karateka journey) I don’t think I know enough to question what people with much more martial arts experience tell me.

So, when we begin to learn karate, we take things on trust. We have faith that our instructors know what they’re talking about. We believe what they tell us is right. That it will work. We trust what they tell us about effective blocks and strikes and kicks. We trust that they know what they’re talking about when they discuss body mechanics and pressure points. We listen when they tell us which moves belong in our kata and where their origins lie and how they should be interpreted and applied.

Conversely then, one must wonder if there will come a point where we start NOT to believe. When we start to think “Hey, I don’t think that’s right. I think it would work better this way”. When this question raises its head, then what? We have two courses of action it would seem. We can choose to ignore that inner questioning voice, to continue to trust what we’re told. Or, we can act on it. We can change what we do to reflect what WE believe, not what we’re told to believe. Is there a point when it becomes acceptable to do that? When is it?

At 2nd Kyu?

At 1st Kyu?

At 1st Dan?

At 5th Dan?

At what point, if any, is it okay to stop taking the word of your instructors as the truth and start defining your own truth?

From everything I’ve read so far about the history of karate its clear that the early karateka training under Okinawan masters didn’t question. If they wanted to learn karate they did as they were told. They worked one Kata for 4 years until they could do it perfectly, blind-fold, in the dark, on uneven ground, with 40 people attacking them (okay, maybe not quite like that, but you get what I mean ;)).

That said, if none of them had ever questioned the truth of what there were told, surely karate would just be karate. It wouldn’t be Shotokan, or Isshin Ryu, or Shito Ryu or Shukokai or Wado Ryu. There wouldn’t be diversity of karate styles if people didn’t at some point believe they knew a way to do it better.

I’m sure there are karate purists out there who would argue that change of any sort is a bad thing when it comes to martial arts. What do I think? Well, to me, everything must evolve. If things don’t they become stagnant, they can lose their fitness for purpose. Evolution breathes new life. It allows for growth, for improvement, for expression of changing times and environment.

Which brings us back round to the when. When is it okay to question the truth of what we’re told? When is it okay to act upon it to enact change?

For the moment, at this stage in my karate journey it feels disrespectful of me to question the truth of what my instructors (with 10/20/30 years karate experience) tell me. For the time being, should I hear that inner questioning voice I choose it ignore it. To have faith. To believe. To trust.

Later in my journey? Who knows? Only time will tell.

For now?

Acceptance of Truth.


Wednesday, 8 December 2010

A Grading and A Whole New World.

Wow. Time has gotten away from me this week. I don't know if it's the impending festivities taking up my time or the fact that I've been feeling a little under the weather so can't really be bothered with much. Either way, I'm a little late with posting this week.

Sunday was a Cookie family outing for grading. Kendo testing for blue test, me for red tip, Grace for blue tip. It was COLD COLD COLD in the hall. Even the warm up and an hour and a half kihon, kata and kumite couldn't completely defrost me (I swear my feet have been perpetually cold for the last fortnight!).

Grading was intense, but not too strenous (there was a large group of us -almost 30) which necessitates quite a bit of waiting around for your turn). Apparently I had my "serious face" on. LOL. Mostly because I was concentrating hard, especially for my kumite. I had to go up against Shihan in a one minute bout (with everyone else watching...ugh! Horrific!). I managed to hold up though....... mostly meaning that I held my ground and didn't just stand there being wolloped! He even managed to get an unsolicited Kiai out of me. I've never done that before while sparring but I was pretty frustrated with myself at the end and it snuck out with a side kick. LOL.

We all made our grades....hurrah! So came home happy and tired little karate-ka.

Monday night saw me acting as Sempai for Grace's class again. A few weeks ago Shihan presented me with my "Assistant Instructor" patch (I was stupidly excited about that I have to say) so I definitely feel like one of the team now. Shihan and Sensei Chrissy had me lead the class through kicks (I get the feeling my teaching skills are under some scruitiny now. LOL). I think I did okay. I managed to keep their attention, they were all kicking the right kick at the right time, I even managed to count and kick at the same time (who knew how hard THAT would be?). Of course after class I remembered a million little things that I probably should have done, but it was okay for a first time out I think.

Adult class on Monday was a mixed bag of old and new. We spend the first half implementing all the blocks we know - GREAT practice for looking at the applications of them. So often its easy just to get into the rhythm of doing block after block. It's nice to get to grips with how they actually work some times. I was paired with a newly graded yellow belt for some of these exercises which meant more opportunity to flex those teaching muscles as I had to show him some of the blocks first. He did a really good job of getting to grips with the new stuff.

The second half of the class opened up a whole new world of karate stuff! Our school has been running for about 18 months under it's current system. Prior to that it's run under different names in conjunction with other instructors in other locations. It's never been a school that has taken part in Tournament karate though. Well, that's about to change! Next year we'll be hosting the first Tournament for our governing body TKGB. That means we need to get some practice in with tournament style kumite. All the kumite we do at training is freestyle sparring (Jiyu kumite). Never for points and not with set attacks and defenses. Shihan gave us three areas where we could score points (torso, back, head) and three strikes we could score with (kick, reverse punch, back fist). It's really strange knowing you have to go in for that specific strike/area to score. In some ways it makes you much more focused as you're looking for a specific some ways it was quite distracting as you're concentrating on what will and won't score that vital point. We were spilt into team (2 teams of 6) and drew numbers so the bouts were random. I won my bout (yay) against Paul (the yellow belt I mentioned earlier who for some reason is a little bit scared of me, which is just hilarious). He managed to get a few jabs in but because they were off the front foot he didn't score. I took him out with a backfist. Sigh of relief.

Our team didn't win, but everyone did really well - especially the youngsters. They held their own. I was really impressed.

For the last 10 minutes of class Shihan gave us a taste of team kata performance (another element which will be included in the tournament). Shihan and Sensei Chrissy and Sensei Helen performed our version of Bassai Dai (which was pretty amazing and more than a little bit scary!). Then Shihan asked us who else wanted to try so myself, my fellow blue belt Louise and Purple tip Jon decided to do Kata Saifa. It was great fun and we pretty much nailed it (even if I do say so myself). Louise and I are performing this kata together for the display for the Christmas party so it was good to know that we're pretty solid on the timings already. A little more practice and we'll be all set.

So, that's the round up of the Cookie Family Karate week. New grades gained and alot of new things to think about. Just the kind of karate week I like!

Hope it's not snowing too hard where you are.

© Cookie Family Karate
Maira Gall