What's that old saying? The family that prays together, stays together? In our case it's more like the family that grades together, stays together.
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.