Thursday, 30 May 2013


Well, I finally made it.

After almost 4 years of karate training I tested for and was awarded my 1st Dan Black Belt in Isami Ryu karate on Saturday 25th May.

It was a crazy run up to a crazy day. Two weeks before my grading date on the 10th May my little brother (I say little, he's 29 and about 17st but he'll always be my little bro) was taken to hospital in an ambulance with suspected Pneumonia. He has Down's Syndrome so had no real understanding of what was going on and was very distressed. Ultimately he ended up in the ICU, sedated and on a ventilator. He's still in there but seems to (thankfully) be on the mend now.

Needless to say with my big sister having just flown out for a holiday in Greece, the hospital visiting and the worry put something of a scupper in my training preparation. Thankfully I had already written my presentations (and kept on practising them to my steering wheel on many trips to and from the hospital car park!). My Shihan had faith that I was ready to grade and that the lack of training before hand wouldn't hinder me too much. The one plus side was that I didn't really have chance to get nervous about it until the evening before (when the stomach churning kicked in! LOL).

It was a 6 hours grading including some seminar style segments from several other styles (Aiki-Jitsu, Ju-Jitsu, Ninjitsu and Shotokan karate). I was required to present on a high Kyu kata (I opted for Seunchin) with history, performance of the kata and bunkai which I managed to do without being too speedy with my speech or too mumbly with my words. I also had to present a small segment on a non-karate martial discipline. I opted for fencing which everyone seemed to find quite interesting.

The rest was the usual mix of fitness, kihon, kata (I had to perform Bassai Dai as the syllabus kata that was selected for me along with my two required Shodan kata (Sepai and Sanseru)), and kumite. Thankfully as I had to attend church for my Daughter's Holy Communuion the following day Shihan kindly requested that none of my sparring partners punch me in the face! LOL.

It was a long day as one of our karate instructors was also grading for Shodan but in another style (Aiki-Jitsu) so there was quite a lot of switching in and out. It was also hard as I was the only candidate for karate so I had to perform all my Kihon etc on my own - eek!

I was very glad to reach the end of the day and incredibly happy to have passed. I even managed not to cry (much).

Now it just feels a little strange. I'm not quite sure what to do with myself. Friday should be my first class back after the grading and I'm certain it will feel very strange tying that stiff new black belt on for class for the first time. Hopefully it'll get less weird as time goes on. I don't imagine myself as the type of person who would achieve Black Belt quit but I suppose you never know until you get there. Time will tell I suppose.

Until then though......oooooo... Hidari Ni Empi is the first Nidan kata. Lots of lovely elbows! I like the sound of that! :)

If anyone is still reading after my epic absence from here then a big thank you for all the helpful comments and support I've had from everyone since I started this blog. I never really thought I'd make it this far and I've picked up some great advice along the way.


Wednesday, 6 February 2013


When I was a little girl I was pretty much a girlie girl. I liked dolls and gymnastics and could be found most Sunday mornings in the summer doing this* somewhere in a field in North Wales:

*for those of you fortunate enough to have never had the pleasure, this is troupe morris dancing. Very popular in the North of England and Wales. Basically troupes of girls in matching dresses with bells on their shoes and pom poms in their hands trotting out a kind of formation dancing. If you're really desparate you can see some here. Builds exceptional thigh muscles.

I've said before that I never had any interest in martial arts at all as a child. I certainly had no interest in fighting with weapons. That was for boys and we all know boys have cooties (well, they do when you're 10 anyway).

Something strange has occurred these past few years though. Since I started on my karate journey I've developed something of a taste for weapons work. I loved the Bo staff section of our kobu-jutsu programme. I enjoyed the Escrima section. I liked working with Tonfa. Then this last year I've discovered something I love more than all of those things.

I love swords!

It occurred to me on my way out to training last week that lately most of my activities involve me leaving the house with some sort of pointy/slashy weapon in my hand.

If I'm not doing this:

I'm doing this:

Or occasionally doing this:

(although to be fair if I'm doing this its most likely at home acting as Uke for DH - this is HEMA (Historical European Martial Arts) and involves lovely pointy/slashy synthetic long swords)

I'm not sure what it is about sword work that I love so much. The interesting thing is that whilst each of these is very different, at their heart they share a lot of common ground. I suppose ultimately there are only so many ways to hit someone with a long piece of metal so its inevitable that some similarities would evolve even with arts from different sides of the globe.

I'm going to try to write some posts on each of these things individually (just need some time to think them through and get writing) but I just want to share my love of all things pointy and slashy for the moment.

Inexplicably, swords make me happy.


Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Nana Korobi Ya Oki

You can't beat the Japanese for a good proverb. One of my favourites is:

"Nana Korobi Ya Oki"

Essentially it means "Fall down seven times, get up eight." When it comes to karate I've certainly found it true. I've lost count of the number of metaphorical (and occasionally literal) "falls" I've had on this journey. I have always so far managed to get back up though and hopefully this time will be no different.

After my total "woe is me" posting of yesterday I had some stern internal dialogue words with myself (and some excellent words of advice from the lovely SueC). I've concluded that part of what I'm missing at the moment is a "beginner's mindset"*. When I first started out in karate I would be constantly running over stuff in my mind when I was doing other things. Kihon practice in the kitchen, going over taisabaki at the photocopier, sneaky kata run throughs in the work bathroom. For whatever reason over the last year I haven't really been doing this and I need to get back to it.

So for now, that is the plan. Carving out some snippets of the day to consolidate what I'm going through in class. Last night for example was a good chunk of time running through my two required shodan kata (seiunchin and Sepai) and ironing out some bits that I was a little muddled on. Now I've got the blips ironed out I'll try to make sure I get a least some mental run throughs of them both this week (so I haven't forgotten everything come Friday).

Little bits, often, will be my way to go I think.


*This was a really good read regarding this concept. Worth checking out if you haven't already.


Monday, 28 January 2013


Definition of commitment


  • 1 [mass noun] the state or quality of being dedicated to a cause, activity, etc.: the company’s commitment to quality I could not fault my players for commitment
  • [count noun] a pledge or undertaking: I cannot make such a commitment at the moment

  • 2 an engagement or obligation that restricts freedom of action: with so many business commitments time for recreation was limited
I've been thinking a lot about commitment these last few weeks. Questions are being asked of me. Can you commit?  Are you ready to prepare for Shodan? Do you want to commit?Can you give 100%?
That last one is what's giving me pause for thought. 100%? 100% of what?
In terms of karate training the days of karateka devoting 100% of their time to training are long gone it would seem. Bygone days when students would live in the house of their Sensei - sweep his floors, tend his garden, mend his fence as part of their karate study are distant memories from another era.
This is karate for the modern age, and unfortunately for the vast majority of us (Western karateka for sure) the modern age means the (in)conveniences of modern life.
We have families. We work. We clean house. We have responsibilities and roles that need to be filled.
So where does that leave us? Given the 168 hours in a week my time (as a quick assessment) looks like this:
Now this doesn't include the time I spend dealing with staff who look after by brother (HR issues, wages, HMRC stuff) or the time I spend doing stuff for my Dad.
Hmmmm. Interesting. I spend a lot of time sleeping (trust me when I tell you that me with less than 8 hours sleep isn't healthy for anyone!) and a lot of time working. The kids and the house taking up a large chunk there too. For karate though.... I spend about 6.75 hours a week in the dojo (that's split over Monday and Friday and includes travel time).
When we talk about 100% it can't be in terms of time. 95.98% of my time is already taken up with things that are necessary for the smooth running of our family existence. So what does that leave? Is it effort we're talking about? Is it enough to give 100% effort in the 6.75 hours (the 4.02%) of time I'm in the dojo? Well, that's good, but it's probably not enough.
If I'm going to commit. To enter "the state or quality of being dedicated to a cause, activity". To "pledge or undertake" the next step on my journey to shodan. Then I'm going to have to find some % from somewhere. Some of that time allocated from other things is going to have to be turned over to time focused on karate. But where do you steal the time from? What is less important? What can be allowed to slide? Am I willing to let anything go? How badly do I want it? Do I have it in me? or ever?
Am I ready to commit?
A more complicated question that one might think.
© Cookie Family Karate
Maira Gall