Karate wa yu no goto shi taezu natsudo wo ataezareba moto no mizu ni kaeru. Karate is like boiling water. If not given heat, it will go cold.
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.
The difficulty is working out how to get the heat back on. After a bit of self-reflection I know that I’m guilty of happily working on the things that I know I can do. I like the comfort zone. It’s…..well… comfortable. Mindfully though, I know that the comfort zone isn’t what will generate the heat needed to boil my metaphorical karate water.
I’m reminded of this post over atKaratebyJesse.com where Jesse talks about karate zones:
The Comfort Zone
The Learning Zone
The Panic Zone
(a good read if you have a few minutes).
Ultimately I think it begins with confronting your weaknesses. If you continue in your comfort zone only working at what you’re good at you’re only going to get better at what you’re good at. But it’s hardly a challenge, not enough energy to bring things to that boil.
Stepping out of the comfort zone, looking at your weaknesses, braving the scary waters of what you’re not good at. That’s what will bring the energy, the heat needed to get your karate bubbling nicely.
So, following that mindset, what are my weakness? Alas, I think they’re probably numerous but there are a few of which I’m particularly conscious.
For me the weakness in kata isn’t learning the pattern (I’m usually pretty okay with that – although for some reason Empi is giving me some serious brain ache at the moment). Nor is it the techniques (for the most part I’m okay with those). The weakness in my kata is intensity. Kime ultimately, I guess. I struggle to put some “umph” in my kata. I used to be quite a fiery personality but age and two kids has mellowed me somewhat and I don’t find it easy to put venom in my kata performance. Couple that with the fact that I actually find the rhythm of kata quite soothing and it means my kata tend to look a little laid back. As my Shihan has said to me before… like I’m enjoying it a little too much. Short of getting my fellow karateka to put me in a bad mood before every kata session I’m not quite sure how to deal with this. Visualising my opponent helps some. I think I might just have had a “eureka” moment though so I’ll move onto the next weaknesses and see where that thought leads me.
Ahhhh. Kumite. The bain of my Martial Arts existence. Is it truly weird for someone who loves karate to hate fighting so much? That’s the problem here. I just. don’t. like. sparring. There, I said it. Shoot me now! Prior to starting karate classes two years ago I had never really intentionally tried to hit anything or anyone (maybe once but I was about 7 so I don’t think that counts). It was a completely alien concept to me and it took me a while to get my head around. Sparring then, the most difficult element of karate from my point of view, because I don’t really like trying to hit people, and I don’t really love getting hit (who does, really?). It’s also the worse element for me because I find it really difficult to see any progress in myself in this area. I must be getting better somewhere along the line or I’d be having my arse handed to me by white belts all the time but I just can’t see the progression. Maybe it’s because even after all this time I still feel awkward and clumsy and bumbling when I’m sparring. Kumite is the point in my karate where I’m certain someone is going to come bounding into the dojo and shout “Oi, you with the brown belt (did I mention I made 2nd Kyu by the way, I can’t remember) you total faker, you should not be here, be off with you, you charlatan”. I feel like I’m going to get “found out” any minute. I’m thinking it might be a clue to the Kata weakness though. I’m beginning to see a tie in here.
Despite my many protestations in class (usually when my lips have turned blue after a sparring bout or a long kata) that “Breathing is for wimps” I really think I need to start working on this one! How it is possible for someone to forget to breathe? Honestly? I get so hyper focused on the task at hand that I forget the most intrinsic of bodily functions. Stupid. Dangerous. Not good. I’ve been trying to work on this with some “Awareness of Breath” techniques but I can’t even get that right. Breathing in for the count of three, hold for three, breathing out for three. Trying to focus just on the breath whilst counting. Who would have thought counting to 10 was so damn hard? I can barely get past 3 before I’m distracted from my breathe by some errant thought or outside distraction. I think there’s definitely a link to this weaknesses and the kata issue too.
Tying all that up then. I’m struggling with kata intensity, kumite and breathing and the “eureka” moment is that maybe all these things are connected. I don’t like sparring so I have difficulty seeing the kata form in terms of a fight scenario. Which means it’s hard to get that fight level intensity in there. When I am sparring or doing kata I focus so much on the techniques that I forget to breathe, which means I can’t get the tension/intensity levels right in the kata techniques and in sparring I’m not getting my brain and muscles fuelled with enough oxygen to be able to think well enough around the fight.
Lots to think about for me in terms of getting out of my comfort zone and getting my karate back on the boil. Apologies if this is something of a karate brain dump. I haven’t really thought about my karate in such an analytical way for a while and it seems to have all spilled out once I got going!
Food for thought for sure. All this talk of boiling has made me want a brew though …. Off to put the kettle on.