Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Tougher Trials Ahead

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

Guest Blogger: What Kata Means To Me.

Being that this is the Cookie FAMILY karate blog I thought (well, actually they thought) that the rest of the family should actually get to put their two penneth in. We began the our karate journey together as a family (we train together) so it's good to get a taste of their experience (which is, after all, OUR experience). So, without further ado. A guest blog post on Kata from Kendo (my lovely hubby).

What Kata means to me.

When I began this journey some 18 months ago I envisioned me using Karate to help my fitness and improve my ability to defend myself. I was serious enough about pursuing it as a hobby but I never imagined it could take a hold of my life as it has. At that time I thought I would learn how to punch better, maybe how to kick effectively, and perhaps look a bit impressive doing it…. I didn’t think about kata at all. When after a couple of lessons I realised advancement and the majority of work was based around kata I was disappointed. It seemed to be just a repetition of moves akin to following a dance routine…….. and believe me I am not a dancer!

This feeling lasted for a good amount of time well over the first year in fact. I actually realised after a short time it was useful but I didn’t enjoy as I did the other aspects of my lessons. That is until recently when I realised just how significant Kata is and when my attitude to it changed and I began to work at it as it was meant to be I began to enjoy it.

Its easy enough to learn a new strike, be it with hand, elbow, knee or foot. The same goes for blocks. It’s also not too difficult to learn the many stances we use these strikes from. Its easy enough for some people to learn the pad drills (though not me and that’s a whole other story…) and these pad drills allow us to use the strikes and the stances in a repetitive manner that allows us to learn the control and power needed to make it all effective.

But what about a real fight, or for that matter Kumite, does our opponent allow us to drop into a specific stance and execute a specific strike? Does he block or counter as a martial artist would so we can use the correct block or strike? No. Combat is often messy and not really very pretty, it certainly doesn’t look like art.

As I progressed in my lessons and Kumite I started to introduce the strikes and blocks in as I learnt them, not always effectively though as I generally was not in the right stance.

It felt at this point in my training that there just wasn’t time in a combat situation to drop into a stance and hold it as we do in practice drills.

When I watch Shihan in Kumite it initially appears to the untrained eye that he moves much the same as we do, albeit more efficiently and seemingly always one step ahead of his opponent, but in fact he isn’t usually moving randomly at all. He is actually moving between the very same stances he teaches us in our basics, but so quickly and with such natural flow that it is hard to see unless you know exactly what you’re looking for.

How did he learn to do this? Kata. That movement between stances that is natural rather than forced can only be attained through long hard practice of kata, but not as a dance with steps to be made in a sequence but rather as a simulation of combat.

Kata is not dance it is combat. Because we do not see the opponent we think of it as merely following a pattern.

One of my Sensei’s told us recently she wanted to see us seeing our opponents during Kata and this comment struck home with me. I’ve noticed it now when I watch my instructors that they are focused on an imaginary opponent before them, each movement is aimed at this opponent and with that comes the fine detail that make the kata combat not dance. Moving your fist in a forward momentum is not going to break your opponent’s nose but might look nice in a dance routine. In kata that movement is a punch with all the force and control needed to do the required damage.

Kata at first seemed like a routine to be carried out in a classroom alongside other students, a performance for an audience. But Warriors have honed their skills for centuries by solitary kata training, imagining an opponent before them and repeating movements so much that it becomes second nature.

I no longer try to learn Kata moves by rote, flapping my arms around in the general direction of the pattern and hope the form will come with practice later. Now I try to kill, maim and disfigure that big guy standing before that’s trying to hurt my family…..

I’ve still a long, long way to go, but the journey ahead of me seems more achievable now with my realisation that kata is there to guide me and train me, not merely as a tool to measure me.

So, that's Mr K's two penneth. More from me when I've got my head around what I want to write in my next post, I'm mulling over a few topics.

© Cookie Family Karate
Maira Gall