Monday, 28 November 2011
Yesterday was Black Belt grading day at the Isami Ryu dojo. Not mine (thankfully! LOL).
Two of my fellow karateka were grading, Keith for his Shodan and Sensei Chrissy (who I assist in the Little Dragon's class) for her 3rd Dan.
I was invited to attend and participate (as uke) in the grading and it was an amazing experience. Particulary pertinent to me as it was my first experience of a black belt grading and it was great to see an example of what I will be facing then the time comes for mine.
It was a tough experience for sure. Over an hour and a half of fitness/stamina training including all sorts of hideous things like tricep dips (yuk!) and wide arm push ups and planks (hate those... but actually managed to hold them for the alloted time so was quite proud of myself!) and sit ups of a million incarnations and pad drills and kick drills and combinations (both familiar ones and ones set by instructors from other clubs which weren't at all familiar). And that was just the beginning!
I was seriously flagging at a few points but managed to keep hydrated and fuelled (with the help of some carb-gels... BEST. INVENTION. EVER! LOL) and completed everything that was asked of me.
The rest of the grading is something of a blur! When DH asked me later what we'd done I would talk through bits and kept forgetting stuff and ten minutes later would be like... oh, yeah and we also did......X, Y, Z. There was randori work (starting back to back and remaining on your knees while you attempt to pin your opponents shoulders), the candidates doing escapes from various grabs. Some Aiki-Jitsu work involving lots of continuation of movements and some lovely elbow locks/arm bars (my left arm is extremely sore this morning from being somewhat hyper-extended in the excitement of an arm bar! LOL).
There was more pad work based on one of the non-club combinations given by the panel members (which I really enjoyed, even though it was hard work remembering the combination (very strange getting to do a headbutt, we don't ordinarily use them in our style). Then there was a huge amount of taisabaki (forms based on a set array of attack/angles). I ended up in the role of uke for a considerable number of those (which probably explains why every inch of my body is vying for the "most painful appendage award" this morning.)
Thankfully after making it through all of that us non-grading participants got to sit down for a while with the candidates did kata and their presentations. I don't think I've ever been so glad of a sit down and a banana snack as I was at the moment. Keith gave an excellent presentation on Kata Bassai Dai including a really interesting take on the bunkai for the kata. Chrissy presented Kata Hangetsu with excellent bunkai and a really well thought out weapons section with Sai versus 4 other attacking weapons (Jo, Bo, Sword and Tonfa). They certainly set the bar high in terms of presenation work. I've already got my thinking cap on over what I might do for my required presentation!
Keith and Chrissy both performed amazingly and accordingly they were both successfully awarded their grades. They certainly did us proud.
In terms of the learning curve for me I was very pleased that I managed to keep up with all of the fitness requirements. That tells me at least that even at this point my fitness is good enough to make it through such a long stint of fitness testing. I have plenty of time to work on improving my fitness which can only get better. As to whether I would have been able to function enough to perform kata and a presenation to a coherent standard? I think I might have been hard pressed to form a coherent sentance yesterday, never mind present and then face questions from a panel. Definitely an incentive to improve your fitness if nothing else!
Monday, 14 November 2011
Now I'm back to full steam I'm incredibly conscious of the fact that I really need to be stepping up my game now. Knocking on the door of 1st Kyu I need to make sure that I'm focusing on doing the absolute best I can with the tools I've been given.
Following on from my post last week about confronting your weakness I've decided that I'm going to take a look at the areas of my training that really need work and implement some stragegies to improve them.
Perhaps the biggest weakness that I omitted from the list in the last post is FLEXIBILITY, or rather lack thereof.
As a young child (up the age of 10 or so) I was quite a sporty individual. I took 4 gymnastics classes a week, was on the squad for the gymnastics club, I ran, I swam and generally had a good level of fitness and flexibility.
Around age 11 (or there abouts, I not sure exactly how old I was but I recall it was around the time I started Secondary School) I had a
Sitting on the top of the wooden frame (not on the metal bit) as we had want to do at that age I was nudged off by another person sitting next to me and slid down the steep side (where the steps were) and landed on the bottom of my back. Cue a bruise coccyx (youch!) and many months of pain. The result of this childhood stupidity was that I had trouble bending at the waist for a very long time which ultimately led to very short hamstrings (as well as I think being a contributing factor to ongoing back problems I've suffered as an adult).
In terms of my karate journey, short hamstrings make for painful stretching sessions and pretty crubbish kicks. Not so much of an issue for front and side kicks but for round kicks I find that I can't get enough rotation on my hip (my pelvis doesn't tilt very well) to get a good kick in and for crescent kicks I struggle with getting any height (I just don't stretch that far!).
A little while ago I purchased this book:
Monday, 7 November 2011
My karate (and indeed the rest of my fitness in general) has definitely been off the boil of late. The last week or so I’ve come to the scary realization that my “I’ll just have a few days of not doing much/not eating well/not going to the gym” has very quickly stretched into months. How frighteningly easy it is to slip back into old habits. Fortunately, an awareness of being back into old habits means a decision that things need to get back on track. I need to get back on the boil. I didn’t work hard for 2 years to shed 35lbs just to let it slowly drift back on again.
I’m reminded of this post over atKaratebyJesse.com where Jesse talks about karate zones:
Friday, 2 September 2011
So, I guess I've been conspicuous by my absence of late. Nearly three months since I've felt the urge to waffle about anything karate related. Its a number of things contributing to the lack of posting and indeed a lack of training (which obviously impacts on what I've got to talk about). The change in routine over the summer break has been a big influence. An extra busy and frustrating period at work another. A million and one little things contributing and leading to a scattering of my focus when it comes to karate.
I'm certain all the big "karate minds" of the world would argue that outside influences and changes in your personal life should not impact on your karate training. In the real world however having a job, a husband, two kids, a sick parent and a messy house that needs cleaning and repairing are going to have an impact on it. Karate training whilst important to me personally is sometimes forced to take a back seat to other concerns.
To be honest, for a long time I didn't let karate come second to these things. Since I started on my karate journey two years ago I pretty much lived and breathed all things karate for most of my time. Part of that is a reflection of my personality I think. I'm definitely one to hyperfocus on a project. It becomes all consuming. The problem with that is you can't keep that intensity up indefinitely. Especially when the other things mentioned earlier start to demand action and attention on your part (as they rightly should). The danger is that you get to the point where you're energy for the project is all used up. I really don't want that to happen with karate.
So, where does that leave you. When you've reached the point when what was total hyperfocus is now scattered. It's hard to pull back all those strands of thought into a place of focus again. Especially hard to balance pulling them back in just the right amount - to make sure you don't get to the hyperfocused point, but to allow enough focus to be able to progress.
A balancing act then. That's where I'm at. It feels little like things are conspiring against my training schedule at the moment, but I also know that part of that is because I don't have focus and I need to regain the incentive to make time for karate. I'm trying not to feel like the guy in the drawing up there. Pushing the rest of my life up a big hill in an attempt to get to the dojo!
Sunday this week will be the start of getting back into usual routines. The kids are back at school on Monday (my little boy starting primary school.... how'd that happen?) so hopefully that will help with getting my focus back on track. I have brown belt (2nd kyu) grading looming in my future and for that I really do need to have my head in the karate game.
Be back soon. Hopefully!
Wednesday, 8 June 2011
Recently one of this chats turned to higher gradings and what’s expected of people once they reach that level. Shihan went on to mention that once me and the other highest grade in the club (Louise) had reached 1st Kyu (hopefully by the end of the year) he would be talking to us both and asking us if we wanted to consider beginning the process to grade for black belt.
Wow. That gave me some serious pause of thought.
My initial response was “Why would he even need to ask that?” The more I thought about it though the more it made sense that he would ask. Agreeing to start Black Belt training is obviously a big commitment…but not only for the student. It’s a big commitment from the instructor team aswell. It’s additional training (black belt specific) every week. It’s a great amount of stuff in the syllabus to be covered. It’s help with research, with presentations, with overall fitness and endurance (as well as karate fitness), help with mental preparation for the grading. Any of you who’ve been reading Sue’s blog about her upcoming Shodan test will know what kind of commitment is required from students preparing to grade so thinking about that level of requirement and the amount of time and effort you’re asking the instructors to invest in you as a student then its easier to see why the question would be posed.
So then. Do I want to train for Black Belt?
Immediately the answer for me is YES.
Then the brain checked into the argument.
Am I doing myself and my instructors a disservice if I answer “Yes” without giving it some serious thought? I think probably ….yes.
So another question raised then. WHY do you want to train for Black Belt? Maybe the more important question, and definitely one which requires some serious soul-searching.
Firstly, I have to say that the very act of even being in a situation to be asked to this question still occasionally baffles me! It’s strange for me to think that 2 years ago I had no interest in martial arts whatsoever. I do still sometimes think someone is going to come in and declare it’s all a big mistake and I can’t possibly have my purple belt and take it back! LOL. Yet despite the occasional mental wobble here I am, knocking on the door of 2nd kyu and giving this whole black belt thing some serious consideration.
Why? Why do I want to be a black belt?
Clearly it can be seen as a logical progression. You work hard up through your Kyu rankings. Gaining knowledge. Building on the foundations of what you’ve learnt. Expanding your experience. It’s a long road to travel and being a journey it must be perceived to have some sort of final destination. So, is that it? Is it the final destination, the ultimate achievement of ones journey? The end of the road?
Well, no. I don’t believe that at all. From all I’ve come to learn over the past two years Black Belt to me seems the very opposite of that. It’s not the end at all. It’s the beginning. It’s the START of a martial arts journey.
It’s “I’ve read and understood the handbook”.
It’s “I’ve passed the driving test”.
It’s “I’ve achieved my qualification, now give me a job!” ;)
It’s the beginning of being able to really explore karate with the solid foundation you need to understand it. So that’s part of the reason. I can begin to see the start line lingering on the horizon. I want to make it there so I can move on with the big karate journey I’ve begun.
Now I’m going to back track a little. I’ve said Black Belt is only the beginning and that’s true. However, that’s not to say that Black Belt in and of itself isn’t a momentous achievement. It is. Probably one of the greatest of your life I imagine. When I think of how far I’ve come in the last few years I’m continually amazed at the things I can accomplish. I was a smoking, drinking, junk food eating couch potato. No doubt about it. What began with a little 8 week run/walk programme has completely changed the way I look, the way I eat, the way I live and my outlook on fitness and on life. Discovering karate has opened a whole new world of interests to me. It’s given me an awareness of self that I didn’t have, it’s made me think about my morals, my beliefs, how I treat other people, what my part in the world is. The journey this far has been astounding compared to what I thought I could ever achieve. To get to Black belt…. well….. it will certainly be something I never thought I would say I’d accomplished.
That’s not all though. There’s another element which spurs me on in pursuit of this goal. Another thing I never thought I’d see myself doing with my life. The most surprising thing that has come out of my karate journey so far is discovering that I like to teach. As a child I never harboured the “I want to be a teacher” dream. I would say I’m quite impatient by nature and I always thought I didn’t transmit information well to others. Maybe it’s my age that is the different factor now. Maybe it’s being a mother that makes it easier somehow? I don’t know. All I know is that I LOVE assisting with the junior classes. I love teaching these kids. Being able to pass on what I know. Watching that moment when it clicks with them. Struggling through those moments when it won’t click with them (oh how I know how they feel then!). So that’s something else achieving Black Belt will bring for me. It will mean I can teach. I can impart all this amazing knowledge I’ve learnt to others. I can share the karate love :D
That’s not to say that I think obtaining a Black Belt automatically means you can teach, on the contrary. I’m pretty certain not very Black Belt could or should be an instructor. I’m lucky enough that running along side my Black Belt training programme will be an Instructor training programme. Building in all the elements I’ll need to be able to take that step from Sempai to Sensei. Scary…. but uber-exciting.
A round up then.
Why do I want to train for Black Belt?
I want to pass my driving test (please God don’t let it take me as long as it did to pass my actual driving test!! Don’t ask!), I want to reach the starting line. I want to REALLY being my martial arts journey with all the tools I need firmly under my belt. I want to have that sense of achievement making it that far will feel. To be able to say to people, “Hey… I did it… you can too”. To show that you’re never too old, or too fat, or too unfit. With hard work and dedication you can get there. I want to be able to take the great gift I’ve received from my karate mentors and share it with others, so they can learn to love it as much as I do.
It’s a little while down the road for me yet, but I wanted to put this out there. I think it’ll be interesting to see if I still feel the same when I get to the point of committing to Black Belt training for real.
Shihan – if you’re reading, I guess you know my answer (for now). I can’t see it changing….unless you break me at 1st Kyu grading…. I might see things differently if that happens ;)
Tuesday, 7 June 2011
Last Sunday saw a big grading day for us. Grace and Kendo both testing for Red Belt (4th Kyu) and me for brown tip (2nd kyu ho).
In a rare occurrance (mostly because we had left the camera in the car from a recent camping holiday) we actually managed to get a karate related picture of all of us together. Here we are then:
That's Kendo and I in the middle, Shihan Dave to the left, Sensei Helen to the right and Sensei Chrissy (who instructs the junior class) and Grace at the front.
It was a tough grading session (particularly for Kendo who'd had to work over night Saturday night so was running on snatches of sleep he'd managed to get in the afternoon (not the best prep for grading, but unavoidable unfortunately)). Despite that he managed to do really well particularly at kumite where he gave Shihan a run for his money during their bout. My bout was slightly less successful, but still an improvement on my previous performances I think. I struggle with Kumite more than any other element of my karate. I'm still not 100% comfortable with it (although I am seeing glimpses of improvement here and there). I did manage to get an elbow in to Shihan's back when he grappled me round the waist and lifted me practically off my feet which I was quite proud of.... shame he barely noticed it. LOL.
Grace put in an exceptional performance I thought (although some might say I'm slightly biased ;)). She amazes me just how much she picks up and how quickly. She's really coming on in her karate in all aspects and is just improving constantly. I really hope she keeps up her enthusiasm for love for it. If she continues as she is I can definitely see a black belt in her future which will stand her in good stead in all aspects of her life I think.
The most important thing I learned from grading this time is that I really need to work on my breathing in the more intense kumite bouts. When I was sparring Shihan for my last bout he backed off for the last 10 second or so (unusual because that's usually when he pushes you the hardest) and I couldn't understand why. It was only in discussion afterwards that he said he was slightly concerned because my lips were starting to turn blue and that's why he'd back off! Eeekk!!
Someone had mentioned that it had happened last grading as well and I didn't think anything of it, now it's happened twice so it's clearly something I need to address (especially as thoughts are turning to eventual black belt grading (but that's a whole other post!)). The strange thing is I don't feel like I'm not breathing. I'm not light headed or woozey or anything. I think there's a possibility that my breathing is too shallow as I'm totally focused on my kumite (it so far has only happened in bouts against Shihan when I'm 100% focused on not getting my backside whooped!). What oxygen I am getting is obviously going to brain, heart and muscles to fuel the important things for I need for the kumite.... who needs lips and fingertips at a time like that?
So, I'm conscious of it now, but not entirely sure how to address it. More focus on awareness of my breathing I guess, particulary in kumite. Maybe some yoga or meditation exercises will improve my breath awareness and help with utilising all my lung capacity? Time will tell how improving that pans out. If anyone has any tips please feel free to share......
For now, it's back to working on my Seunchin (which needs to be strong for 2nd kyu) and for Grace its getting to grips with Koke Ho more and beginning the pattern for Saifa. Kendo has the delights of Bassai Dai (he's already grilling me for the pattern). Onwards and upwards in the world of Cookie Family Karate. Scary how much of our lives revolves around karate now.
Monday, 16 May 2011
I was a little jittery at the beginning of class, not nervous so much, just anticipatory (is that even a word?) and unsure of what to expect. My Bo felt completely unnatural and unwieldy in my hand (like I could easily do some serious damage to myself, and others!).
Never one to let us off lightly Shihan had us straight into things after as soon as we’d bowed in (even that was a learning curve!). We worked on a couple of openings with the Bo (first on our own, then with a partner). Kendo and I partnered each other which I think is really useful for us at this stage especially when it comes to practicing at home. Once we’d work the first two openings for a while we moved onto getting to grips with the angles of attack. It was a lot to take in… set your start position, make your opening, attack on the first angle (diagonal), switch your hands around, make your second opening, attack on the second angle (the other diagonal), reset your hands.
I was all fingers and thumbs and Bo for a while trying to get the hand positioning right but after a lot of repetitions the first couple started to sink in then we moved onto the next two angles (thrust), then one to the next two (over head and upper cut), then the next two (rounds). They follow a similar pattern to the Taisabaki patterns we do in our karate syllabus so it felt somewhat familiar in that sense. We covered the first 8 angles (angle 8….blimey! It involves a sweep with the Bo held practically full length out…. how there wasn’t a hospitalisation incident I don’t know! LOL). Once we’d mastered the mawate (who knew turning could be so complicated!) we moved on to putting all 8 angles together in one stretch.
As there were quite a lot of us Shihan had us take turns going down the length of the dojo floor in groups of three and two so we could all get some practice completing all 8 angle strikes without turning in the middle. A couple of years ago I’d probably have died on the spot at the prospect of doing that but my karate training has certainly paid off in that regard. I’d just rather have at it and get the practice in rather than worry how I look and if I’m going to make a bollocks up. Better to get any errors corrected by Shihan now than unpick them later, for sure!
We covered a lot in an hour and a half but it seemed to be over before I knew it. I’m a little achey this morning, but not as much as I expected to be. Mostly its in my Lats (which are muscles you don’t often use strenuously I suppose… unless you’re flinging a 6ft Bo around!). Next week we’ll be covering the next 4 angles (there are 12 in total) so I’d better make sure I get some practice in this week. I really hope the weather’s dry so we can get outside in the garden. Hopefully it won’t frighten the chickens too much!
So much more to learn on the Bo, it’s really exciting to get started. The Bo syllabus we’re going to be working from encompasses Japanese and Okinawan Bo work but will also incorporate some English long staff work (think Robin Hood and Little John). It should be a really interesting ride.
We received copies of the whole Kubo-jutsu syllabus last night along with details of the grades and ranks. It works somewhat differently to our karate syllabus. Each weapon will be taught in a 13 week module. After every module we’ll be graded to see if we’ve learnt enough to be awarded a kyu rank. The weapons are split into 3 sections with 3 weapons in each (wooden weapons (Bo, Jo and Tonfa), sword (Iaido, Kenjutsu, Daito) and special weapons (Sai, Nunchuku and Kama) and after each group of 3 modules (a block) we’ll tested for and awarded a Rank. One you’ve past the first rank you’ll be able to wear a Hakama, Keokogi and Obi. I’m pretty excited about that but I suspect my bank balance will not be seeing as we’ll have to buy two of them and they don’t come cheap! Yikes. Ah well, the price you pay for your (martial) art I suppose.
Right, time to go. I’ve got a lot of mental Bo swinging to get done!
Wednesday, 4 May 2011
I'm as excited as all those things. I'm excited because very very soon (in 11 days time in fact, not that I'm counting or anything) my karate existance is about to expand.... to include on of these:
Yup. That's a big ol' Bo staff. I'm about to be let loose wielding a 6ft pole. I'm not sure if the world is quite ready for that, but I am :)
Shihan has decided to begin Kobudo training (well, technically it will be Kobujutsu, in the same way that our karate is karate jutsu, as it will be something of an amalgamation of styles). I've been looking forward to starting training with weapons but was expecting to have to wait a lot longer, and then to only get a few seminars in. As it is there'll be a full grading syllabus with a variety of weapons.
Did I mention I'm excited?
Bo staff is the weapon we're set to begin with and the Bo section will run for 3 months. The weapons are split into "types" so following on from Bo there'll be training with Jo Staffs then Tonfa (for the "sticks Section"). Later on there'll be training in Sai, Nunchuku, Kamas, Sword (fighting training and Iaido) and later on from that (at Shodan level) some scary looking things including a nine section whip (yowser)and a Naginata (ouch).
Weapons training opens up a whole new level of martial arts theory and practice and I can't wait to get my teeth into it. We've got Bo Staffs on order and I'm mulling over making a nice carry case (any excuse to get the sewing machine out). Roll on 15th May I say :) Can't wait.
Wednesday, 20 April 2011
Back to business as usual after the guest post from Mr K.
Exciting things happened last weekend (exciting for me anyway). I was invited to the monthly grading to test for 3rd Kyu (purple belt). Super exciting for a couple of reason.
1) Purple is my absolute FAVE colour! LOL.
And, rather more seriously
2) 3rd kyu is venturing into high grade territory.
It’s a scary thought realising that.
Grading was pretty scary. Having to perform my grade required kata (Bassai Dai) at full focus on my own was pretty nerve wracking, and facing Shihan in kumite one on one is pretty scary (really shouldn’t kick him in the knee cap…. I’ve still got the bruise… knee caps are HARD! D’oh). It was worth the blood, sweat and tears though.
Obtaining my other belts was a great feeling. I thoroughly enjoyed the process of getting there, of learning, of exploring, of understanding, of things clicking into place as elements of the syllabus built on previous knowledge. Getting my purple belt was a great feeling too, but it feels like it carries much more weight than my previous gradings. It means stepping further into a whole new world of karate learning. Taking those basic elements that I know and being able to apply them, in any situation. Being able to adapt them, as required. Being able to see possibilities and outcomes and thinking one step ahead.
I remember thinking at the start of this journey (way back when I thought I might last out a few weeks at karate class) that one day I’d love to make it to purple belt (not least of all because hey, purple…yey :) ). When I think about that I can hardly believe I’d made it this far. I’ve learnt so much this past 18 months. Every single class I’ve learnt something new. I’ve discovered a whole new interest (not just in karate but in all the philosophy and history surrounding it). Martial arts has very much become a part of me (I’d never have seen that coming!).
So. Moving forward (as one must do in life). There are tougher trials ahead.
For me, from here, that means of course a new kata to get to grips with. In this case our version of Seunchin, which at the moment is still making me break out in a cold sweat! I’m working on getting the pattern down, but I’m also much more conscious of the intricacies (head turns etc) than I’ve been previously – getting them in now will save me the pain of putting them in later, I’ve learnt.
New Taisabaki forms – intermediate 3 & 4 (the same strikes are listed here) which are avoid and counter (3) and free defence against a series of kicks (4).
New strikes. New pad work drills. New kicks.
It also means of course looking back too. Strengthening my kihon. Improving the kyu kata and taisabaki and pad drills that I already know. A constant revisiting of what I’ve learnt to assist with what I need to learn.
Onwards and upwards as they say.
Right, that’s it for now. There’s a 2nd kyu kata pattern with my name on it. Off to watch the video and read the walk through I’ve written out for the 100th time!
Monday, 18 April 2011
Tuesday, 8 March 2011
I had a conversation with my Shihan recently regarding my kata performance. My Bassai Dai is really coming on now, I have the pattern nailed and I’m improving on the stances all the time. What Shihan was concerned about was the level of intensity I portray in my kata (all of my kata, not just Bassai). Apparently I look like I’m enjoying myself way too much (probably because I am… I LOVE Kata). I’m usually smiling just a little bit too much. Unfortunately I should be looking like I’m about to rip someone’s head off… and the smiling kind of belies that message.
So. I need to work on my intensity.
I’ve been trawling the old WWW looking for some information about improving kata and this sequence seems to crop up again and again:
1. Learn the pattern
2. Perfect the form
3. Understand the bunkai
4. Practice with the utmost seriousness and intensity
I think I’m falling down at number 3 on this list. I’m reminded of SueC’s post about “Speaking Kata”.
The bunkai is where I struggle most when it comes to my kata. Not so much in the earlier ones, but as we get further up the syllabus and the movements are more complex I can’t always “see” the application of particular sections. Without being able to see the Bunkai it’s difficult to imagine your opponent….. which is where I’m falling down between step #3 and step #4, because I think for step #4 you really have to be able to see your imaginary foe when performing your kata. Without envisioning the opponent, you may as well be dancing. Without the bunkai it’s hard to put in the required intensity. You could fake it so some degree I suppose, but I imagine it would come across as somewhat contrived if that were the case.
I am improving in terms of my Bunkai. In fact, it’s occupying a lot of my mental karate time these days (I always find myself taking advantage of those times when my brain isn’t occupied to get in some cerebral karate… going through kata patterns and bunkai in my head). Kendo and I have been working on some bunkai at home too (that’s his favourite part of kata and is really making him grow to like it even though he really didn’t enjoy it at first). It's slow going though.
I guess my progress in speaking kata is somewhere between my Dutch (I know one word that is pretty much useless in every day conversation*) and my French (where I can ask for a beer, a cheese and ham toastie, the toilet, a train station, a room with a shower and interpret directions). In between French and Dutch. In geographically terms my kata is Belgium!! LOL.
For the time being, I’ll concentrate on smiling less, and looking fierce more! Time to invest in a “game face”.
In other karate stuff, I realised I completely forgot to blog about our Kenjutsu seminar…. More on that when I have time.
I’ve also just finished reading this book:
A.Maz.Ing! I totally loved it. So much so that I’m considering reading it again (once I’ve prised it out of Kendo’s grubby little hands – no surprise he’s loving it too). More thoughts on that once I’ve gotten my head around all the posts I’ve been thinking about lately. So many karate questions…. So little time!!
*Should you be even the slightest bit curious, the one Dutch word I know is gezellig. See, not much use really.
Thursday, 17 February 2011
A fellow karateka recently asked me about teaching them some of the higher kyu kata I know and also mentioned that they were interested in learning the patterns of all the kata up to black belt before the year's out (they’re currently at orange belt (7th kyu)). At this point in the post, if you’re reading (which I know you do) you know who you are and I hope you don’t mind me using this as a blog topic! Eek!.
I’ve been giving this considerable thought of late. Mainly because for a reason I couldn’t fathom right away, the request made me a little uncomfortable. At first I wondered if it was a pride thing (tisk! How very un-karateka like! LOL), was I trying to keep this knowledge I had close to my chest? Hoarding what I’d learnt just for me? I soon came to realise that wasn’t the case. I’d happily show any student the kata required for their grade and maybe even their next grading step. I’ll share with them all the little things I learnt whilst I was learning it. All the tips and tricks other people told me to make the kata come together. So, it wasn’t about hoarding the knowledge. Why the wobble then?
To get to the bottom of my indecision I thought I’d try putting myself in the requesting karateka’s gi for a moment. I’ve come to realise that we’re very similar creatures this other student and I. When I first started learning karate (once I’d gotten over the initially shock at my unintentional arrival in the world of martial arts!) I couldn’t get enough information. I still can’t, to a degree. I’m the same with any new venture I embark upon. I have a thirst for knowledge. I need the information, and gad dang it I need it now! LOL. I remember wanting to know more kata. Craving more knowledge than I could possibly retain. Wanting to learn the new blocks, the new strikes, the new stances. Feeling the need to fill my metaphorical karate cup till it was overflowing. And therein lies the rub. If you try to do that, if you try to cram everything you want to know into your little newly purchased karate cup, stuff is lost. It spills over the sides. You can’t retain it.
Blimey, that was a bit deep for a Thursday lunchtime, wasn’t it? Where’d that come from? LOL.
So I think that’s were my hesitation is coming from. I’ve learnt from my own karate journey experience that if you rush to learn to much stuff you risk losing the information you’ve already learnt. I rushed ahead with the first few kata and to my detriment they were never quite as good as they should have been. Later on in my training I’ve had to go back and unpick the bad habits I had and relearn the kata, better. In the rush to acquire more knowledge I ended up making more work for myself. I’ve learnt that lesson the hard way. These days I think about the kata required for my grade and nothing else (except on the occasions I'm instructed to by my teacher). First the pattern, then the techniques and the stances, then tweaking every little thing until I know I’d doing the best job I can. Even then I’m always striving to do it better next time. To make is stronger, tighter, faster. This doesn't only go for my current kyu kata either. My earlier kata are stronger every class because my awareness of my techniques increases all the time and my motor/muscle memory it stronger week by week.
I can see why someone would want to know the patterns to all the kata. I've been there. The argument in favour is sound on the surface at least. To know all the patterns then when you come to it at a later date you can just pad out what’s there. Ultimately though, I don’t think that’s conducive to good kata or good karate in the long run. There are stances and techniques in higher katas that you haven’t covered yet and you need to know the basics before you can think about even the pattern of the kata. They’re the building blocks after all and you can’t build the top of the tower without the lower layers. It’s a recipe for bad habits I think and bad habits are much harder to prevent than they are to unpick, for sure!
I’ve been looking around the web to see if I can find any other discussion for either side of this dilemma and to be honest almost everything I can find comes down on the side of learning kata above your grade being a bad idea. The reasoning is mostly the same to.
It is far better to have a good understating of one kata than a superficial understanding of many. Do not rush when learning the kata or be in a hurry to move on to the next one. Take your time and always emphasize quality over quantity.
Most students today seems to be in a hurry to learn their kata...so much so that they often forget that Kata is a practice of perfection. Rushing through the movements causes the student to lose the deeper appreciation for the fine aspects of this rare art form. Take time when training your Kata to enjoy its finer points. The beauty of the stances, the precision of its defenses and the flowing of the techniques into one complete Kata.
Never rush through the movements Furthermore never rush to learn a new kata until the instructor recommends you to do so. It is said that in former days of martial arts training a single kata was practiced for a minimum of three years. Today a student will often come up impatiently and say that he “knows” all of a kata and wants to do the next one when in fact the student only knows the sequence of the moves and would actually need to learn a lot more about stances, balance, power etc. before he can proceed to a more difficult one.
“Practice does not make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect” and in kata practice, there are no pads, no partners, you only have yourself to motivate you, consequently you must overcome your own criteria, discover your own strengths and be disciplined enough to overcome your own weaknesses.
To quote just a few. Different schools of karate. Different kata probably, but the same emphasis.
Quality Over Quantity.
I’m particularly fond of this statement:
“Practice does not make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect” *
*ETA. I've been mulling this over since posting and I came to the conclusion this isn't quite right. I don't think anything in karate (or elsewhere) can really be "perfect". I'd amend it to "perfect practive makes progess" I think :).
Time to wrap up those thoughts into an answer then. Sometimes it’s hard to say no to people. Most people strive to be helpful to others (I would hope anyway) and saying no doesn’t always seem conducive to being helpful. Let’s face it, no one wants to come across as an unhelpful bitch, do they? In this case though, I think no probably is helpful. Especially with an explanation of why the “no” is given. In the long term it’s better to go slow. Take your time. Perfect the grade kata you’re on and the ones before it before you move onto higher things. Cement your learning with perfect practice until you find that your karate cup has grown that little bit bigger and can hold just that bit more information. Time for advanced kata will come – and when you get there you might well wish you hadn’t! LOL.
Tuesday, 15 February 2011
So, lots of changes around here (all of them good, thankfully). For me the immediate karate future mostly holds all things Bassai Dai (my required 3rd Kyu kata (purple...my fave! yey :). I have the pattern down to pat now but Shihan wants me to work on really getting my stances in place properly. I need to be able to perform this kata at full focus for my grading. The part I'm really struggling with is moving in back leaning stance (kokutsu dachi). I can't seem to get a handle on shifting my weight through the transitions without looking and feeling awkward. I've been quizzing the higher grades on tips for how they deal with this (it seems a common problem with this kata) and I have some ideas....any other tips from the land of karate blogging are greatly appreciated - I know some of you have this kata under your belt already (so to speak!).